Hamilton mayoral contender has ‘regret’ that bots liked his tweet about housing


Published September 7, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Bob Bratina affirms that he never bought bots.

The former member of Parliament and mayor of Hamilton, who is running for the latter office, denies that his campaign purchased any software that can control a Twitter account. Bots are commonly associated with celebrities paying for fake followers in order to gain online clout, or for the spreading of political misinformation, mostly notably during the 2016 United States presidential election.

A tweet from the Bratina account on Tuesday about the housing affordability crisis in Hamilton drew over 200 likes, compared to single-digit tallies for other early-campaign posts about his appearances at the Hamilton Labour Day Parade and the Winona PeachFest. One observer noted many of the accounts who liked his tweet had their location set outside of Canada, and also recently sent identitical tweets about the Colombian election and a crypto game.

Through Twitter, Bratina said his campaign had nothing to do with non-sentient bots’ enthusiasm for increasing affordable housing stock in Hamilton.

“To be clear, my campaign nor anybody involved with my campaign has purchased bots,” a Twitter thread from the Bratina campaign states. “I regret that my previous tweet attracted the attention of a large number of bots.

“Allegations that my campaign is engaged in misleading or deceitful conduct are without merit.

“Let’s get back to discussing the issues.

“Thanks to everyone who brought this to our attention.”

Nine candidates are on the ballot for mayor in the Oct. 24 elections, where Hamilton residents will elect city councillors and school board trustees. Three-terms mayor Fred Eisenberger, who was unseated by Bratina and 2010 and then defeated him in ’14, is not running.

The field includes former Hamilton chamber of commerce CEO Keanin Loomis, former Ontario Opposition leader and Hamilton Centre New Democrat MPP Andrea Horwath, and former taxi drivers’ union head Ejaz Butt. Jim Davis, Paul Fromm, Solomon Ikhuiwu, Hermiz Ishaya and Michael Pattison have joined the race.

The tweet in question from Bratina said, “#HamOnt is facing a housing crisis. Outdated regulations are standing in the way of innovative Made in Hamilton solutions. We need to cut the red tape to start building a better Hamilton.”

The messaging did draw at least one compliment.

“He at least has a platform,” wrote Ryan Patrick Moran, a Hamilton entrepreneur and writer who is a partner in CoMotion Spaces.

Loomis has publicly available platform details. Horwath has not set out what she would do, although what she has done in Hamilton as the former Ontario NDP leader, an urban Hamilton MPP and Ward 2 city councillor has helped her earn some key endorsements

Housing is a primary issue in Hamilton. The Smart Prosperity Institute said last month that Hamilton will need to build more than 52,000 homes by 2031 in order to do its part to assuage Ontario’s affordable housing shortage. The same report also said that Premier Doug Ford-led Ontario PC Party government has yet to put forth a “comprehensive” housing plan.

In the last council term, Hamilton city council has passed a gentle density-building plan that allows fourplex and townhome conversions. The building industry, climate and social justice advocates and city planners have also collaborated on how to achieve mutual goals. Hamilton has also adopted a climate action strategy and frozen the urban boundary to protect some farmland.

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