News

Liberals want to change partisan advertising law: AG

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews. (QMI files)

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews. (QMI files)

TORONTO - 

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s budget bill would “gut” legislation that bans partisan government advertising, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk says.

The new definition of partisan advertising proposed by the government would allow self-serving spots at taxpayers expense, not unlike the ones currently being run by the federal Conservatives, Lysyk said.

The existing law empowers the auditor general’s staff to review government advertising and reject examples that promote the political interests of the governing party.

“If it’s a self-congratulatory message where there’s no point in the ad going out other than the government to pat themselves on the back and say, ‘How great we are,’ that’s a type of ad that we would question,” Lysyk said.

The auditor’s office could reject ads because they’re set to run during byelections or because they criticize opponents of the government, she said.

One ad that got the chop suggested the manufacturing industry in Ontario was booming, she said.

“It’s not factual,” Lysyk said.

The proposed changes would turn her office’s review process into a “rubber stamp,” and it would be preferable to lose oversight of government advertising completely than accept the new definition of partisan, she added.

The Ontario Liberals say they brought in the legislation to prevent the kind of pre-election, feel-good, taxpayer-funded advertising routinely released by the former Progressive Conservative government, often featuring an appearance by former premier Mike Harris.

“Ontario was a leader when we passed the Government Advertising Act in 2004 and we are still the first and only jurisdiction in Canada to enact legislation that bans government-paid politically partisan advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television,” a statement from Deputy Premier Deb Matthews’ office said. “We have announced that the 2015 Budget would expand this legislation, giving the auditor general oversight of digital advertising as well as transit and movie theater ads — something the A-G herself has called for.”

Matthews suggested that the auditor’s office is putting ads to a ridiculous standard.

The government released examples of ads that were rejected or ordered changed often at significant expense.

Some of the ads were rejected because they featured red apples, red bricks or red print — the Liberals’ party colour, the government said.

Lysyk, who has served as auditor for less than two years, said she has never rejected an ad because of the colour of a featured apple.

 


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions