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Friday, May 15, 2015

Government-funded political ads: Grits want in on the gravy train

Ioften hear people wonder about the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau would make, and what a Liberal government led by him would look like. And, while I’m not much help on the Trudeau-as-PM part, I think I’m safe in pointing out that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are as good an example as any of what a federal Liberal government would look like.

The Ontario and federal Liberal parties may be organizationally independent and have separate memberships, they are nevertheless pretty much the same when it comes to their core membership and internal movers and shakers. One needs only think back to the bonhomie and speech-making that we saw at both Mr. Trudeau’s and Ms. Wynne’s leadership conventions. For the most part, it was impossible to tell who were actual delegates and who were just observers.

The Grits attending those events all seemed to consider themselves “inside the tent.” Time and again, leaders of the federal Grits heaped praise on former premier Dalton McGuinty and his replacement, Kathleen Wynne.

Keeping this in mind, it is instructional to observe the Liberals in Ottawa railing against the Tory practice of using taxpayer money to fund partisan advertising such as Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre using taxpayer dollars to produce videos of himself promoting the universal child care benefit.

Senior Liberal MP Marc Garneau reportedly complained the videos show that the government has attained new heights of arrogance by  assuming Canadians are “too stupid” or “don’t care.”

Strong language indeed. And he’s probably right, or mostly so.

So what, I wonder, does Garneau and his Liberal colleagues make of what their political sisters are doing on this same file at the Ontario Legislature?

According to Ontario's auditor-general Bonnie Lysyk, Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals want to strip away most of the province’s rules on partisan ads. Something the auditor says would undermine her office. Two weeks ago, Ms. Lysyk accused the Grits of trying to “gut” the provincial act governing advertising, and she issued a special report Tuesday.

Ms. Lysyk says changes proposed by the Grits open her office of Auditor-General to “mockery” as an independent officer of the legislature. So upset is she that Ms. Lysyk wants to be relieved of her duty to review government ads before they run.

Deputy premier Deb Matthews got her two cents worth on record. According to The Canadian Press report I saw:

Deputy premier Deb Matthews says the Liberals wanted to clarify the definition of partisanship in government ads, which she says will make the rules clearer.”

I winced when I read that one.

So I wouldn’t expect Ottawa’s government advertising practices to change much under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, if what is going on at Queen’s Park is any indication of how the Grits operate when they have the hammer.

2 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. The Chretin Liberals also used partisan goverment adds in the early to mid 1990s so it is pretty rich for them to complain about the Tories.

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    1. Anonymous May 16, 2015 at 8:49 AM:

      Yes, they (Chrétien Liberals) did spend spend several millions on such ads, and we should never forget that. And, yes, the Grits are hypocrites and we should not forget that. But funding political ads with tax-payer money is a nasty practice and is not fair to taxpayers, and we should never forget that.

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