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DWatch calls on Auditor General to rule that Ford Conservatives’ fake news videos violate government advertising law if public money spent promoting them

If ruling finds technical loophole that permits spending public money to promote the fake news videos, the Auditor General should call for closing the loophole

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it sent yesterday to Ontario Auditor General (AG) Bonnie Lysyk calling on her to investigate and issue a ruling that, if public money is spent on ads to promote them, the Ford Conservatives’ fake news videos posted on social media violate the Government Advertising Act (GAA).

The GAA prohibits departments and Cabinet offices from running ads that are partisan, and requires all ads to be submitted to the AG for review before they are run so that the AG can require changes if the ads are partisan (meaning ads that feature the Premier, ministers or MPPs, the party’s logo or colours and/or ads that name and criticize a member of the legislature). All ads must also include a statement that the item is paid for by the Government of Ontario.

The Conservatives’ fake news social media accounts claim that the videos are produced by their caucus services office but Premier Ford and other Cabinet ministers are clearly involved in the production of the videos as one or more of them appear in all the videos in exclusive interviews. The fake news social media accounts confirm that they provide “exclusive content” on the government and caucus. None of the videos include a statement saying that they are paid for by the Government of Ontario.

As well, given that the caucus service office is funded by public money, and is directly connected functionally to the Premier’s office and Cabinet, the AG should conclude that those offices are directly involved in the production of the posts.

Given the Premier’s and Cabinet’s involvement in producing the videos, if the Conservatives’ caucus services office has paid to promote any of the videos as ads through its social media accounts, the AG should rule that the videos should have been submitted to the AG for review for partisanship before they were promoted as ads. The AG should also rule that all of the videos that have been promoted so far violate the GAA.

“The law is aimed at preventing the Ontario government from spending the public’s money promoting the ruling party. As a result, given Premier Ford and his Cabinet ministers have been directly involved in producing the fake news videos, the Auditor General should rule that the videos violate the law if public money has been spent promoting them,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

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