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Wynne paves way for us to pay for partisan ad blitz

Already adept at wasting money and taking corruption to new heights, the Wynne government is now positioning itself to take another page from Stephen Harper’s playbook: blatantly partisan advertising.
Early on in their tenure, the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty adopted the Government Advertising Act to tackle the worst abuse of the advertising budgets, naming self-promotion for the party masquerading as information for the public. Now, Wynne is looking to gut the act, and there’s only one reason: churning out more propaganda.
That’s precisely what has provincial Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk concerned.
“Over the past decade, this Act has ensured that government advertising is politically neutral, factual and accurate,” Lysyk said this week following tabling of a special report. “These proposed changes would do away with almost all the provisions of the Act that aim to prevent publicly funded partisan advertising.”
The act currently requires government ministries to submit most proposed advertising in advance of use to the auditor general for review to ensure it is not partisan and meets other standards of the act. In the past decade, Lysyk’s office has reviewed more than 7,200 ads, worth more than $411 million in spending, and rejected fewer than one per cent of them.
Now, Lysyk warns, the changes proposed by Wynne reworks what’s considered partisan. Currently, that determination rests with the auditor general, but the revisions would set out only a small number of limitations, opening the door to excessive misinformation.
The proposed changes eliminate that discretionary authority and replace it with a narrow definition that says an ad is partisan only if it contains: the name, voice or image of an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly; the name or logo of a recognized party in the Legislature; or “to a significant degree,” a colour associated with the governing party.
The current act contains these and other standards, including that an ad must not have as a “primary objective” to “foster a positive impression of the governing party or a negative impression of a person or entity who is critical of the government.”
Lysyk said that the proposed changes, if enacted, would allow a government to run “self-congratulatory” ads praising its performance and making inflated – and unsubstantiated – claims about the benefits of its actions.
As the changes would undermine the public protections afforded by the current act, and pose a risk to her office’s credibility, Lysyk said she will ask the government to relieve her of her duty to review government advertising before it can be run if the amendments pass.
Given Wynne’s determination to fleece the public even more, we can expect her to draw more inspiration from Harper and work to undermine the auditor general and any other oversight body that seeks to protect the public interest.
With a federal election on the horizon, we’ve already seen Harper launch a campaign disguised as a budget and other policy changes – an indefensible use of tax dollars that the opposition charges has run to more than $700 million during Harper’s tenure.
Wynne, it seems, has got herself a role model, spending wildly, offering zero accountability and selling out citizens to backers, all in the interest of clinging on to power. If the vast majority of Ontarians have to suffer, then so be it. The forthcoming flood of disinformation will try to paint a different picture, of course. And all at your expense.

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