Front group for Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) targeted 13 Liberal swing ridings in GTA, but didn’t register as third- party advertiser for Ontario election or identify CAPP as a funder
August 1, 2018 (Ottawa) — Greenpeace Canada and Democracy Watch have filed a formal request for an investigation by Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer into whether an ad campaign by a front group for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) violated Ontario’s election law. The request sets out details about an ad campaign run from April 8 to May 29 by Canada’s Energy Citizens, which is funded by CAPP. This “ground campaign” targeted 13 Liberal swing ridings in the Greater Toronto Area and involved billboards, mailings to 400,000 homes and social media postings.
Greenpeace learned details of the campaign from an anonymous whistleblower. Neither CAPP nor Energy Citizens registered as a third-party advertiser for the Ontario election campaign even though the advertising campaign addressed the issues of carbon pricing and whether environmental regulations are making Canada “closed for business”, issues that were raised by parties in the Ontario election campaign (especially the Conservative Party). The ads also did not identify CAPP as a funder.
“This ad campaign by a front group for the country’s largest oil and gas lobby group supported the Conservative party’s platform, raising serious questions about whether it violated Ontario’s election law,” said Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist for Greenpeace Canada. “Now more than ever, we must vigorously defend democratic process against those who would subvert it for their own advantage.”
“The disclosure requirements and spending limits are there to prevent big businesses and other wealthy interests from undermining fair and democratic elections. Elections Ontario must strongly enforce the law and not create any technical loopholes that can be exploited by these wealthy interests,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Ottawa.
Ontario’s Election Finances Act requires registration as a third-party advertiser if an individual or entity that is not a candidate or political party spends $500 or more on ads that address issues raised by parties or candidates during the six months before the election campaign period (which was November 9, 2017 to May 9, 2018) or during the election campaign period (which was May 9 to June 7). Each ad is required to identify both who is running the ad, and who paid for it. Ad spending cannot exceed $600,000 overall (or $24,000 in any riding) during the pre-campaign period or $100,000 overall (or $4,000 per riding) during the campaign period.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Adjunct Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Ottawa
Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada
Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign