Orillia mayoral candidate Mason Ainsworth has issued a statement on social media claiming he has been subject to bullying, bribery, and intimidation on the campaign trail.
In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Ainsworth claimed his campaign has been subject to bribes to drop out of the race to be mayor and has faced “sewer-level” political tactics against him and his supporters.
“Since announcing my run for mayor, people tried to bribe me to leave the mayoralty race in return for a fully-funded councillor campaign and alternatively, threatened to ‘come after me’ if I don’t back down,” Ainsworth claimed in his post.
“I was bullied enough as a child. Life and school were hard but I pushed through. The so-called ‘rough and tumble’ of politics is not for everyone. But this type of campaigning has not and will not intimidate me.”
Ainsworth alleges there is a “counter campaign rife with distasteful tactics and unsettling activities” including intimidating statements towards him and his supporters, with “veiled” threats to boycott businesses who support him.
"Sketchy; backroom; cloak-and-dagger politics. Call it what you want. It is disgusting, disappointing and heartbreaking. Is it any wonder why people hate politics, feel alienated by politicians and why our world is in so much pain?" he wrote in his post.
Ainsworth claims a current member of city council told him they will “crucify him in the next election,” and also wrote of a person who reached out to say they are “gunning” for him and that “it’s going to be like what happened to a former area MPP" in what appears to be a reference to Patrick Brown.
“You might not agree with my voting record, the people I call friends or some of my comments in the past. That is okay,” Ainsworth wrote. “In a democracy, people are entitled to their opinions and beliefs. This is not about that. This is an early sign of a seemingly desperate campaign; not a thoughtful, policy or idea-based presentation of electoral options.”
Despite making strong allegations, Ainsworth did not provide additional details when asked to clarify who is running a “counter campaign” against him, nor did he clarify which council member said they would “crucify” him in the upcoming election or who bribed him to drop out of the race.
“My goal is to bring visibility to the bullying and sewer level politics that are taking place in our city,” Ainsworth said in a statement to OrilliaMatters after declining to be interviewed.
Rather, he asked OrilliaMatters to send him questions. Four direct questions were sent; they went unanswered with the candidate opting to reply with a brief two-paragraph statement.
“I will not be naming names, but I feel that these incidents are too serious not to raise," he wrote.
“I’ve been contacted by multiple residents and business owners with various stories of bullying and intimidation by other campaigns. One resident was told that if they didn’t take down my sign, they would be getting a $100 fine,” Ainsworth said.
“A business owner was told that people would boycott their business if they continued to have my signs on their property. One resident was very upset when someone came to their door and made racist comments about my support for the East Indian community.”
Fellow mayoral candidate Don McIsaac — while not named by Ainsworth but who is his main rival in the race — said he is unaware of any action taken against Ainsworth’s campaign. He says he has chosen to take the “high road” during his campaign.
“I am not sure who or what Mason is referring to,” McIsaac said in a statement to OrilliaMatters. “Even though there have been derogatory comments about me and my campaign, I have made a conscious decision to take the high road at all times. I have also given specific instructions to my team to act accordingly.
“I am not sure whether Mason’s comments are a result of activities that I am not aware of or it is simply a campaign tactic. My campaign will continue to move forward, presenting in an ethical manner, the issues to the people of Orillia.”