Ontario Auditor-General Calls Out Liberal Government on Advertising

May 12, 2015

QUEEN’S PARK –  Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk released a scathing report into the Government’s planned loosening of the rules limiting partisan messaging in taxpayer-funded Government advertising. Under current guidelines, the Auditor-General can exercise her discretion and judgment in approving or rejecting a Government advertisement on the grounds of partisanship. The proposed changes in the budget will force the Auditor-General to approve an ad as long as it does not contain the image, name or voice of an MPP, or the name or logo of a political party.

 

“The Liberals want to muzzle an independent officer of the Legislature in order to run political advertising on the taxpayers’ dime, even during an election campaign,” MPP McDonell stated. “The Auditor-General has made it clear that if the new rules are enacted, the Government will be able to run self-congratulatory ads and exaggerate, or completely make up the stated benefits of its initiatives. Her request is simple: either the Government scraps the changes, or it relieves the Auditor-General’s office from the obligation to sign off on Government advertising. This process should not be allowable in a democratic system.”

 

The current guidelines state that a Government advertisement should be informative (of citizens’ rights, Government services, a new policy, encouraging or discouraging social behaviours, promoting Ontario) and allow the Auditor-General to evaluate the advertisement. Ms. Lysyk’s responsibility is to determine whether the ad is designed to foster a positive impression of the governing party, or a negative impression of critics of the Government. The proposed changes remove both these provisions.

 

“The Liberals are not content with raiding union members’ pockets for political advertising by the Working Families Coalition, so now they are now preparing to raid Ontario’s coffers for the same purpose,” MPP McDonell commented. “The Liberals want the Auditor-General to cave in to their constant pressure, so they are implementing measures to deprive her office of any remaining authority to stop taxpayer-funded partisan advertising. There is no doubt that the moment the Government enacts this travesty, we will see more taxpayers’ money diverted from public services to Liberal spin. This is unacceptable, especially at time when we are seeing funding cuts in healthcare and education. Ontario needs to get back on track.”