More calls for Blackridge Strategy to speak on smear campaign websites
Daryl Newcombe, CTV London
Published Wednesday, June 5, 2019 7:05PM EDT
Pressure is mounting on Blackridge Strategy, a London, Ont. political consulting firm, to clear the air.
Unsatisfied with the news release from Blackridge on Tuesday, some politicians are pushing the firm to publicly identify clients who were not involved in the websites that targeted two incumbent candidates in last year’s municipal election.
The demands come after at least one barrier preventing Blackridge from speaking was lifted.
At least one councillor who was a client of Blackridge during the election tells CTV News they would waive any confidentiality that may be preventing the firm's owners Amir Farahi and Jake Skinner from speaking publicly about the websites.
Councillor Phil Squire is among those who expects Farahi and Skinner to explain that past clients - including himself - had no knowledge of two anonymous election websites.
“In the statement they provided, that's one of the big things that was missing.”
In fact, the statement defended the content of maureencassidy.ca and virginiaridley.ca as harsh and hurtful, but factual.
During the 2018 election the website bearing then-councillor Virginia Ridley's name contained a tab labelled child abuse recounting a time she brought her son to a city hall budget meeting.
Councillor Maureen Cassidy's integrity was challenged along with references to her affair with former mayor Matt Brown.
Squire says confidentiality clauses that may be preventing Blackridge from speaking to the media can be waived.
“At any time one of those clients can just say I am waiving the confidentiality, I would like you to speak publicly and exonerate me.”
Blackridge's statement describes only two "contractual obligations," specifically with Ward 5 candidate Randy Warden and Ward 10 candidate, now Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen, during the 2018 municipal election.
Van Meerbergen denies any knowledge of the websites and is now saying he would waive any confidentiality that might be preventing Blackridge from speaking out.
“I don't recall if that document does or does not exist, but if it does, then I would certainly be willing to lift it from my end if at all possible.”
That waiver leaves the decision firmly in Blackridge’s hands, but no one was made available to speak Wednesday.
“There is an obligation there, to indicate if people were not involved in this, had no knowledge of this, that should be stated really clearly at this point,” Squire says.
Van Meerbergen adds, “Frankly this is a Blackridge problem and Blackridge has to solve it themselves.”
So with confidentiality no longer an issue, it now becomes an issue - not of being unable to speak due to contractual obligations - but of being unwilling.