The mysterious, outspoken Kamloops social media group run by a federal Conservative riding president | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The mysterious, outspoken Kamloops social media group run by a federal Conservative riding president

Darpan Sharma publishes his criticisms of the Kamloops local and regional governments on his Facebook page "Politics Kamkloops" without attributing an author. He is also president of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo federal Conservative electoral district association.
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July 15, 2021 - 7:00 AM

A mysterious politically-motivated social media page in Kamloops is being run by the president of the federal Conservative Kamloops-Cariboo-Thompson riding association.

Darpan Sharma has a working past in political bureaucratic circles, including time spent on the board of directors for the B.C. Conservatives and now, the president of the local Conservative federal riding association.

Politics Kamloops appears to bill itself as an open forum to inspire political discussion. They notably took issue when former Kamloops mayor Mel Rothenburger called it a "right-wing" page in a column on his website, after the page caught the attention of city council by drafting their own notice of motion regarding conflicts of interest within city government.

Sharma has paid to boost each of Politics Kamloops' social media posts dating back to at least Dec. 16, 2020, according to Facebook Ad Library. The advertised posts increased in frequency and their critique of local government after Kamloops This Week published a series of articles titled "Spending at the (Thompson Nicola Regional District)."

"It's not a secret," Sharma said to regarding his involvement with the page.

He kept his interview with brief, as he said he would have to consult with other "core members" of the group. According to Sharma, some of those members also have associations with other political parties, but he did not provide details as to which parties or how they are connected

But his involvement with the outspoken Politics Kamloops page appears to be muddied.

He said that because the group has at least four "core members" who consult before making a post, they do not put names behind each post. However, he admitted that he writes and publishes each post, whether it raises a question or criticizes local government.

Advertising disclosures are they only place on the page where his name is visible. While Sharma's name can be found, disclosed by Facebook, neither he nor any other contributor associated with the page has their name published to the page to tell their readers whose ideas are shared and published on the page.

Politics Kamloops' online reach is fairly small in a city of over 90,000 people. Since it was created in January 2019, it has gathered just under 700 followers, but by paying for advertisements, Facebook estimates they reach 50,000 to 100,000 viewers each time.

Sharma doesn't have a history of hiding his political leanings. In October 2019, MP Cathy McLeod tweeted a video of Sharma explaining his reasons for voting for McLeod and the Conservative Party. He later appeared in a video published by the fossil fuel advocacy group, Canada's Energy Citizens, where he discussed his support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

He also said that his name is on the page simply because Facebook requires that anyone who purchases advertisements through the social media company must disclose their name, but neither his name, his political background nor his colleagues' names are published anywhere else on the page as a matter of public disclosure.

The first time the page ran a Facebook advertisement in March 2020, Facebook took it down. That's because in Canada, and many other countries, any advertisements on the social media's newsfeeds that are related to social issues, elections or politics require a disclaimer citing who paid for it — a tool used by Facebook to help fend off disinformation from their platform.

Since then, each ad has Sharma's name beside it.

Politics Kamloops drafted a notice of motion to Kamloops City Council to amend conflict of interest policies, which they claim on their Facebook page to have submitted on April 5, 2021. Sharma particularly takes issue with the fact that councillors must judge for themselves when they are in conflict and recuse themselves from an issue as they deem necessary.

He pointed to a recent article regarding Coun. Arjun Singh's relationship with local non-profits as an example of conflicts he is concerned about.

To Sharma, it's not the nature of Singh's relationship that is concerning, but that a councillor is the one that decides whether they are on conflict or not.

The page has also published accusations that the city hires contractors with close relationships to city staff and politicians, questioning the "cozy agreements."

However, there appears to be no evidence of wrongdoing published to the page.

Kamloops city councillor Bill Sarai said he is aware of Sharma's relationship with provincial and federal political parties and with the social media page.

But he views Politics Kamloops' page as a "non-starter" because of its lack of transparency regarding who runs the page and who contributes to it.

"We don't conduct city council meetings on Facebook," Sarai said. "If you have any proof of conflict of interest, where do you get your information? If you've got some solid evidence and bring it forward."

The social media page routinely, and without an attributed author, calls out Kamloops city council as paying "lip service" to taxpayers and business owners.

While citizens are within their right to question their government, whether elected or bureaucratic, Sarai takes issue with Sharma's lack of transparency, especially regarding his position within other government circles.

"We are just concerned about what's happening at the city level. This has nothing to do with provincial and federal politics," Sharma said. "It's got nothing to do with being Liberal or Conservative."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

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