Oceanside News publisher fails to disclose role as candidate’s agent in federal election

The publisher of Parksville-based Oceanside News acted as the agent for a candidate running in the September 20, 2021 federal election, but he did not disclose this fact to the news website’s readers.

Oceanside News also, in its coverage of the election campaign, favoured the Liberal Party of Canada, the party that publisher Joel Grenz was associated with during the election.

In advance of the federal election, Oceanside News provided the public with a profile of each candidate in the Courtenay-Alberni riding, with one exception — there was no profile of the NDP candidate, incumbent Gord Johns. The only time Oceanside News mentioned Mr. Johns after the election was called was after the election was over, in a brief announcement titled Incumbent NDP wins Courtenay-Alberni riding in federal election.

Oceanside News also gave an unfair advantage to the Liberal candidate in their website’s Election 21 section that they did not give to other candidates seeking election in the Courtenay-Alberni riding.

The first candidate profiled by Oceanside News in their “Election 21” coverage was the Liberal Party candidate Susan Farlinger. Farlinger’s profile was published prior to the opening of advance polls. The other candidate profiles were published after the advance polls had already begun, and in some cases, after the advance polls had ended. As a result, many people would have already voted, too late for the other candidate profile information to be of any value to those voters. Oceanside News provided no coverage or even mention of the NDP candidate, Gord Johns, at any time during the election campaign.

Oceanside News publisher a registered agent for Liberal Party candidate in North Island-Powell River

Joel Grenz is registered with Elections Canada as the agent for the Liberal Party candidate in the North Island–Powell River riding. The Liberal candidate in that riding was Mr. Grenz’s wife, Jennifer Grenz.

Oceanside News was involved in election controversy during the May 2021 Qualicum Beach municipal by-election. All but one of the candidates running to fill a vacancy on Town Council refused an invitation from Oceanside News to participate in an all-candidates forum that Mr. Grenz’s news website had planned to host.

Objecting to the candidates’ collective refusal to appear at the Oceanside News candidate forum, Jennifer Grenz posted a message to Facebook. “As the wife of the person who owns the paper [Oceanside News website] that was putting on the event, that was not cool. People deserve to hear from candidates. Candidates that were invited and accepted weeks ago. When candidates conspire against another candidate together, and stand up local media/choose their media, people should take notice and be concerned…,” followed by unsubstantiated allegations regarding the four by-election candidates who declined to participate in the Oceanside News candidate forum.

Jennifer Grenz is registered as an officer of Grenz Enterprises Inc., the owner of Oceanside News.

Oceanside News publisher Joel Grenz also has ties to the BC Liberal Party

An article published by the Times-Colonist newspaper in March 2019 revealed that Mr. Grenz was being paid with BC taxpayer dollars to perform unspecified services for Andrew Wilkinson during Wilkinson’s tenure as leader of the BC Liberal Party and official opposition in the BC Legislature.

In a review of the provincial Public Accounts, the T-C newspaper article states “If it’s our money, then surely our politicians should be ready to discuss the details. Unless they have something to hide… The money Wilkinson spent on [Mr. Grenz’s company] Motiontide far exceeds the figures that he reported in the communications and advertising column on his spending summary. Neither Motiontide owner Joel Grenz nor Wilkinson responded for comment.”

Mayor Brian Wiese (L) with Parksville – Qualicum Community Foundation recipients, and Joel Grenz (R) of Motiontide Media. October 12, 2019 PQB News

As Second Opinion QB reported in a three-part series, Truth in Advertising? QB’s local media scene, Oceanside News still has no apparent source of advertising income to support their operations. This, and their partisan coverage of the 2021 federal election, only serves to increase concerns that Oceanside News may be unduly influenced by funding from political parties.

Ironically, Oceanside News states on their website, “In a time of “fake news” and politically-motivated publications, Oceanside News is committed to journalistic independence and integrity.” Their editorial policy states: “Our journalists, advertisers and publisher operate separately. All editorial decisions are finalized by our team of professional, impartial journalists. Accountability within our community matters to us  — our reporters seek out facts and approach stories without bias.”