Ontario government spent $13M on 'partisan' ads, auditor general says

bonnie l cp

Ontario auditor general says the Progressive Conservative government spent about $13.75 million on ads she believes are partisan.

That money represents nearly 20 per cent of all government advertising in 2021-22.

Prior to 2015, ads were banned as partisan if the intent was to foster a positive impression of government or a negative impression of its critics, but the then-Liberal government amended the rules in that year.

Now, the auditor general can only veto an ad as partisan if it uses an elected member's picture, name or voice, the colour or logo associated with the political party or direct criticism of a party or member of the legislature.

Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk railed against the changes at the time, as did the Progressive Conservatives when they were in Opposition, but they have since reneged on a 2018 election promise to reverse the Liberals' changes.

Lysyk says in this year's report that two ad campaigns would have been considered partisan under the old rules, including an ``Ontario is Getting Stronger'' campaign, which she says was designed to foster a positive impression of government and ran not long before the 2022 election.