Ontario's Auditor General Reveals Partisan Nature of Government Advertising Expenditure

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According to the annual report released by the acting auditor general Nick Stavropoulos, Ontario's Progressive Conservative government allocated approximately $25 million, accounting for three-quarters of its total advertising spending in the previous year, to ads that are considered partisan. The report highlights that although the government reduced its advertising expenditure by half compared to the previous year due to a decline in COVID-19 campaigns, the two largest campaigns were found to be too partisan. The rules regarding partisan ads were amended in 2015, allowing ads to be considered partisan only if they include specific elements such as an elected member's picture, name, or voice, party colors or logo, or direct criticism of a party or legislator.

The previous auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk, and the Progressive Conservatives had criticized the changes made to the rules back in 2015. However, after coming into power, the Progressive Conservatives decided not to reverse the Liberal rules as they had promised during the 2018 election campaign. Stavropoulos pointed out that two specific ad campaigns on healthcare and public school funding would have been deemed partisan under the previous rules. These campaigns made claims about building 3,000 additional hospital beds and hiring 3,000 more school staff without providing supporting evidence.