August 1, 2018 (Toronto) – Greenpeace Canada and Democracy Watch have filed a formal request for an investigation by Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer into whether an ad campaign by a front group for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) violated Ontario’s election law.
The request lays out details of a CAPP-funded ad campaign that Greenpeace learned of from an anonymous whistleblower. This “ground campaign” targeted 13 Liberal swing ridings in the Greater Toronto Area during the election by a front organization called Canada’s Energy Citizens. The campaign, which ran between April 8 and May 29, included billboards, mailings to 400,000 homes and social media postings. The ads did not identify CAPP as a funder.
Neither CAPP nor Energy Citizens registered as a third-party advertiser for the Ontario election despite the campaign’s focus on prominent election issues, such carbon pricing and whether environmental regulations are making Canada “closed for business”. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, which campaigned against carbon pricing throughout the election, is now repealing the province’s cap and trade system.
Video of August 1, 2018 press conference at Queen’s Park
“This ad campaign by a front group for the country’s largest oil and gas lobby group supported the Conservative party’s platform, raising serious questions about whether it violated Ontario’s election law,” said Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist for Greenpeace Canada. “Now more than ever, we must vigorously defend democratic process against those who would subvert it for their own advantage.”
“The disclosure requirements and spending limits are there to prevent big businesses and other wealthy interests from undermining fair and democratic elections. Elections Ontario must strongly enforce the law and not create any technical loopholes that can be exploited by these wealthy interests,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Adjunct Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Ottawa.
Ontario’s Election Finances Act requires registration as a third-party advertiser if an individual or entity that is not a candidate or political party spends $500 or more on ads that address issues raised by parties or candidates during the six months before the election campaign period (which was November 9, 2017 to May 9, 2018) or during the election campaign period (which was May 9 to June 7). Each ad is required to identify both who is running the ad, and who paid for it. Ad spending cannot exceed $600,000 overall (or $24,000 in any riding) during the pre-campaign period or $100,000 overall (or $4,000 per riding) during the campaign period.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Adjunct Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Ottawa