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Ontario election ads expected to get nasty, thanks to new rules

Last Updated Oct 22, 2017 at 8:22 am EST

Love them or hate them, we will be seeing hundreds of political advertisements as the countdown begins to what is expected to be a nasty provincial election in June. But this year, the rules are changing and it could have an impact on the outcome of the vote.

The Ontario PC party is first out of the gate with an advertisement that takes direct aim at Premier Kathleen Wynne and the ongoing Liberal corruption scandals.

“Negative ads are effective,” said political strategist Amanda Galbraith, who worked on Toronto Mayor John Tory’s 2014 election campaign.

“People say they don’t like them, they don’t want to watch them, but they are effective. That’s why they’re constantly used.”

While the PC party is busy generating their own commercials, union ads under the banner of the Working Family Coalition have been doing the dirty work for the Liberals over the past 10 years, questioning the credibility of past party leaders, including Tim Hudak.

But this election is going to be different. For the first time third party advertising has been capped, putting a damper on the unions.

“There are new ad rules right now that say you can only spend up to $600,000 in the six months leading up to the election campaign,” explained Galbraith.

“In the past, we had almost U.S.-style super PACs. They could spent unlimited amounts of money attacking. And this, by and large, benefited the Liberal party because they were attacking the Conservatives.”

Of course negative ads can backfire, like the one that mocked Jean Chretien’s face back in 1993.

But political advertisements can also have a massive impact. The very first attack ad known as “Daisy Girl” ran more than 50 years ago in the United States, when Lyndon Johnson implied electing his rival would lead to nuclear war. The ad only ran once, but it changed political ads forever.

Insiders expect the Ontario PC party will likely continue to generate ads that try to get voters to know leader Patrick Brown better. Liberal advertisements will likely focus on party policy, rather than Wynne, whose personal polling is low.

The NDP told CityNews they don’t have any ads out just yet.