Ontarians are heading to the polls June 7th which means that the campaign and all the advertising that comes with it is in full swing in the province. The personal attacks between Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and incumbent Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne started last month, but now the Liberals are concerned some of the PC’s ads have crossed a legal line.
In a news release Sunday, the Liberal government announced that they have filed a complaint with Elections Ontario over Doug Ford’s “Ford Nation Live” series of advertisements which they allege mislead the public and may violate campaign finance laws.
“The Ford Campaign may be using their fake news channel to skirt the Elections Finances Act by passing off their advertising as journalism,” the statement reads, “In trying to pass off political advertising as media coverage, the Conservative campaign is not just misleading Ontarians, it may be running afoul of election laws.”
On their Facebook page, the PC party has uploaded several news report-style videos that update viewers on recent events attended and statements made by Ford and the party. There are also several “interviews” with Doug Ford where he outlines his views on key political issues, without any sort of journalistic push back. The ads are presented in a way that can be misconstrued as real media coverage of Ford and his team.
Under The Election Finances Act, all political advertisements must indicate information about the financing of the ad in writing. According to the law, the ad must clearly state visually the name of the person or organization financing it; the name, business address and telephone number of the person who communicates with the broadcaster; and the name of any other person or organization that is sponsoring the advertisement. The “Ford Nation Live” ads posted before May 5th do not display the party logo or a disclaimer about the funding for the ad at any point. Those posted after that date feature an end card with the party logo and authorization from the CFO.
The PCs maintain that they have not violated any campaign laws and Ford’s spokeswoman, Melissa Lantsman, said in a statement that they are not worried about the investigation process.
“Unlike Kathleen Wynne who is campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime, we are following the Elections Ontario rules,” she said, “The Doug Ford Campaign will be using online videos throughout the campaign to deliver our message of change.”
In April, the PC party called for an Elections Ontario investigation into the Liberal campaign, alleging that Wynne’s camp was using government money for campaign events. Elections Ontario does not comment on whether they are investigating parties in an election, so it is unknown whether either of these allegations are being pursued by EO.
The “Ford Nation Live” news-style advertising is similar to a technique used by the Liberal campaign in 2007 when Ben Chin, a former aid of Dalton McGuinty, made videos featuring the phrases “Liberal News” and “Liberal TV” while sitting at a desk like a news anchor. These were not news broadcasts either, but instead attacks on McGuinty’s opponent then-PC leader John Tory.