Catherine Fife MPP, Waterloo

Government of Ontario

Why Does this Liberal Government Continue to Buy Partisan Advertising?

Published on December 1, 2016

Ms. Catherine Fife: My question is to the Acting Premier. The government is spending even more money on partisan government ads. The Auditor General calls these ads misleading and points out that these advertisements are—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. I’m trying to explain that you cannot say indirectly what you cannot say directly. Even quoting somebody else using that language is not acceptable in this House. The member will withdraw.

Ms. Catherine Fife: Withdraw.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Carry on.

Ms. Catherine Fife: These advertisements are “spending tax dollars to reinforce the partisan messaging of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Can the Acting Premier explain why she thinks government ads should be presenting their own messages, whose only purpose is to help the Liberal Party?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: President of the Treasury Board.

Hon. Liz Sandals: I would like to remind the member opposite that our legislation, which is the strictest in Canada by far, actually bans partisan government advertising. It provides a clear definition of partisan advertising: You cannot use the name of any member of this House, government or opposition. You cannot criticize or support any member of this House. You cannot use any partisan logo—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A subtle reminder: We are in warnings and I will continue to use them. What comes after warnings is naming.

Finish, please.

Hon. Liz Sandals: We have a very strict advertising regime, but what we do do is share information with the public. We have shared information with the public about vaccinations—

Mr. Paul Miller: What colour is the advertisement? Red.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek is warned.

Finish, please.

Mr. Paul Miller: It’s the first time I did anything.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Inches away from being named.

Finish, please.

Hon. Liz Sandals: We’ve shared information about changes in the rules for child care and to help educate parents on how to distinguish between what’s licensed child care and what’s not licensed child care, and how you respond if you think there’s a problem in child care. Those are all things that we have spent money on—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Ms. Catherine Fife: Everyone in this House knows that that government watered down the advertising rules in this province, and the auditor knows it as well. She has called you out for it and everybody knows about it.

The practice of using government-funded ads to bankroll the Liberal Party’s re-election adds insult to injury for the people of Ontario. Parents sitting in hospital rooms with sick kids have to watch commercials claiming that this government has reduced emergency room wait times. Meanwhile, in Kitchener–Waterloo, our local hospital is fundraising for emergency room residents to address the wait times.

Instead of looking out for Ontarians who are waiting for health care, this Premier has been solely focused on getting herself re-elected and using government money to hold onto power.

Will the Liberal Party pay back the money they spent on partisan advertising in this province?


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.


Hon. Liz Sandals: You know, it’s really interesting: I understand that the member opposite wasn’t actually a member of this Legislature when we brought in the original government advertising bill in 2004, the one that she claims her party is so strongly supportive of. But in fact, if you go back and check the voting record—

Mr. Steve Clark: Only to benefit yourselves.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Leeds–Grenville is warned.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): You’re close.


Hon. Liz Sandals: If you go back and check the voting record in 2004, the NDP voted against the legislation that they say they want to defend. And one of the members of the NDP caucus at the time is the current leader of the third party.

Now, the member who’s asking the question may not remember that. We remember it, and the public record of Ontario remembers that the NDP voted against the legislation they are defending.