mark saunders toronto

Prominent Toronto mayoral candidate Mark Saunders is texting people without consent

A new race for Toronto's mayor comes with new tactics to gain public attention, and from the looks of it, one candidate is comfortable using text spam to get noticed. 

Mark Saunders, the former police chief of Toronto and one of the biggest names in the race, is going all out for his campaign.

In almost ironic fashion, this one-time champion of the law is now bending it to gain a lead over his competition. 

On Monday, many residents received unsolicited text messages from the Saunders campaign team.

These texts appear to function as a call to action for the support of Saunders’s campaign while directly targeting his main opponent — Olivia Chow. 

When it comes to the climb for public office, candidates going after direct rivals is not uncommon. However, what is uncommon is the bending of federal policy to do so. 

One of the first statutes laid out by The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) deals with spam and clearly states that any commercial electronic message must obtain consent from recipients, supply identification and a means of contact, while offering a means to unsubscribe from the chain. 

While the Saunders campaign text message ticks two of these boxes (identification and a means to stop any further texts), it does miss one major requirement: user consent. 

None of the texts have been sent with the explicit permission of the recipients, so they appear to break the number one rule of spam requirements according to the CASL. 

When asked about the regulatory nature of the mass text incentive, Saunders' team was able to shed some light on how they operate when it comes to communicating with the public within the confines of the CASL. 

"Texting marketing has been pretty standard, and people in politics have been using it in Canada for six or seven years," says Hamish Marshall, Senior Advisor for the Saunders campaign. 

However, how politicians can use mass text applications without tiptoeing around the CASL is quite simple, as the federal guidelines apply only to commercial purposes.

"Anti-spam is all up for commercial applications, but we're not doing that…We're just telling people that Mark is the best choice to be mayor and the best way to make sure that Olivia Chow does not become mayor of our city," says Marshall. 

Marshall also pointed out that the reactions from Saunders's supporters to the texts have been overwhelmingly positive. 

However, some are not as thrilled as others. 

Reaction on social media has been less than enthusiastic with some taking the time to point out Saunders' connection to his police force's controversial carding practice.

Others aren't thrilled he's publicly shared responses to his messages.

Election day in Toronto is June 26. Make sure to get out and vote.

Lead photo by

Mark Saunders

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