April 18, 2024
As the ad legend David Ogilvy once said: “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.” And she can tell when taxpayer funds are being used for government advertising selling her a political brand.

Doug Ford is spending your money on partisan ads and claiming they serve the public

While ostensibly a celebration of “Team Ontario” and its accomplishments, is the campaign a judicious use of public funds, or a veiled attempt at partisan promotion by the Ford government? I see it as the latter.

In an era where the advertising industry faces unprecedented challenges, the infusion of significant government spending into advertising campaigns is not just welcome; it’s a lifeline.

A vivid example of this is the Ontario Government’s “It’s happening here” campaign, a venture injecting $8 million into the ecosystem of ad agencies, production houses, media planners, buyers, and the media. For an industry yearning for the golden days of lucrative ad space and time sales, this campaign is nothing short of a godsend.

Yet, the campaign, while ostensibly a celebration of “Team Ontario” and its accomplishments, has stirred controversy. Is it a judicious use of public funds, or a veiled attempt at partisan promotion by the Ford government? I see it as the latter.

The background of this debate is rooted in the legal standards set by the Government Advertising Act, notably amended in 2016. The act allows government communication intended to promote Ontario as an ideal place to live, work, invest, study, or visit. Moreover, most Ontario government advertising must be vetted by the Office of the Auditor General to ensure it does not veer into partisanship. However, the definition of partisan is nuanced, tailored to exclude explicit political endorsements but allowing for broad promotional messages about the province.

An advertisement is deemed partisan if it features the name, voice, or image of a member of the executive council or assembly. It’s also considered partisan if it includes a recognized party’s name or logo, directly criticizes a recognized party or assembly member, or significantly incorporates a colour associated with the governing party. Recall how Kathleen Wynne’s government faced accusations of favouring red autumn leaves and bricks in ads promoting government programs.

The Progressive Conservatives once criticized the 2016 reforms, promising a return to stringent controls. Yet, such promises remain unfulfilled, as evident in the auditor general’s 2023 report, which tagged $25 million of government ad spending as partisan.

Interesting Read…

See Also:

Ford’s bloated government gives every PC MPP but one a raise

 

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