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Democracy Watch files request with Elections Ontario to investigate Ontario Proud’s election ads, and any group with similar ads

Democracy Watch’s opinion is that Ontario Proud was required to identify on ads that 90% of cost of ads was paid for by donations from development and construction companies

Thursday, January 10, 2019

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to Elections Ontario Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa calling on him to investigate whether Ontario Proud’s election ads before and during the Ontario provincial elections fully complied with the Election Finances Act.

According to the report it filed with Elections Ontario, Ontario Proud did not use any of its own funds to pay for the ads, and almost 90 percent of the donations that paid for the ads came from development and construction companies. Ontario Proud has claimed to be a grassroots group funded by small donations from voters.

The Act requires that ads identify who sponsored or paid for the ads (section 37.4 and subsection 22(9)), and so Democracy Watch’s opinion is that Ontario Proud’s ads were required, at least, to include a line that said something like “Funded almost entirely by a small group of home building and construction companies” with a link to a webpage listing the companies.

Given that Doug Ford was videotaped before the election promising to “open up a large chunk of the Greenbelt” to home building companies, and that almost 90% of Ontario Proud’s ad donors come from development and construction industry, and that Ontario Proud’s ads overwhelming favoured the Conservatives, and that its head has worked for the federal Conservatives in the past, Democracy Watch’s opinion is also that there is enough evidence to give Elections Ontario reason to investigate whether Ontario Proud’s ads were coordinated with the Conservatives.

“If Elections Ontario allows ads that do not identify who actually paid for the ad, it will undermine the fairness of Ontario elections by denying the legal right voters have to know who is bankrolling interest groups and others who run election ads, and encouraging businesses and others to set up front groups to run ad campaigns that secretly push their interests,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “

“Beyond Elections Ontario’s ruling in this case, a key step to preventing secretive front groups from running election ads is changing Ontario’s law to require parties, candidates and interest groups to disclose their donors before election day so voters have full information about who is bankrolling everyone before they vote,” said Conacher.

In its letter to Elections Ontario, Democracy Watch also calls for an investigation of the ads of any other organization that were similarly largely or entirely funded by one person or entity or a small group of people or entities, if the ads did not identify the donors.

The letter also calls for an investigation of the ads of any other organization that aligned with and connected to any other party’s election platform and interests.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign