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Calgary Transit to review delivery of texted Alberta election ads

Some Calgary Transit users are concerned that the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s advertisements in CT’s text information service sends the message the public service is taking a political stance.

On Thursday, some users registered complaints on Twitter after receiving texts with a UCP advertisement via Calgary Transit’s Teletext service. After registering a Twitter account two years ago, Cody Kozlik tweeted for the first time to register concern.

Kozlik said that while there were NDP ads at the Banff Trail CTrain station, the text ads were different.

“The text felt worse because it was in-your-face, sent directly like a personal message. It was unavoidable. It wasn’t like I could change the TV or radio station or flip a page to ignore the ad,” Kozlik said.

“I feel there’s a difference between an ad in a public space that’s purely an ad, and something that’s attached to their service being communicated by them,” said Alycia Barabash, who signed up for Teletext to see if she got a different ad.

“It looks like they’re backing a political party,” Barabash said.

Kozlik was especially upset as a member of the LGBTQA+ community who uses they/them pronouns.

“As a member of the queer community, I definitely feel threatened by the UCP. That Calgary Transit would display ads for an anti-LGBTQA+ party, I think it sends a mixed message.”

However, they said that if necessary, they would favour banning political advertising altogether by Calgary Transit.

“Transit should be neutral. That’s all I believe.”

Barabash agreed.

The Teletext service, which gives information on bus routes and schedules, was established in 2014. Kozlik said he had used it since that time, and this was the first he had seen a political ad. But Barabash had not heard of it until this controversy, and thought that others might see it as a new service backed by the UCP.

“You don’t really understand that it’s an ad,” she said.

“I see Calgary Transit as a public service, used by many people; I don’t know that I feel it’s appropriate for them to be showing support in that manner to one specific political party.”

Stephen Tauro with Calgary Transit said that there was nothing in regulations against the ad, but that they understood customers’ concern.

“The ad that was displayed on Teletext this morning is in alignment with the Canadian Ad Standards, but we realize that we could do a better job at ensuring that customers understand that Calgary Transit does not endorse or support any of the ads displayed,” Tauro said.

“We are looking at immediate ways to better identify ads in the text application to make this distinction clear for customers.

“Any ad that is displayed on transit property must adhere to Canadian Ad standards and we work closely with our vendors to ensure this alignment.”