TORONTO – Ontario’s New Democrats want to ban all political advertisements before elections and make leaders own up to negative ads if they choose to use them during the campaign.
“I’m seeing very clearly that there are a lot of attack ads, there’s a lot of influence that’s going around the legislature, and what ends up happening is the people’s voice gets lost,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Friday after a speech to the Rotary Club of Toronto.
“It’s rarely about the real issues.”
The party is proposing a blackout on all ads prior to the start of official campaigning, including those from interest groups. The NDP is also suggesting that leaders of political parties take responsibility for their own ads by recording an acknowledgment, in their own voice, indicating that they have approved the spot.
“If leaders think voters approve of these tactics, then they need to take ownership of it,” said Horwath. “They won’t be able to hide.”
As the province gears up for an Oct. 6 election, both the Tories and Liberals have attacked each other as well as the NDP, but Horwath has said she has no plans to “get in the sandbox” and join the negative campaigns.
Two non-political groups have also attacked the parties. There have been ads accusing the Liberals of wasting millions of dollars on what they called a “road to nowhere” in Windsor, paid for by the Canadian Transit Company, the Canadian wing of a business that owns the Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor and Detroit.
The television ads claim that a new bridge will likely never be built, and building a road there is a waste of money.
The Progressive Conservatives have been targeted by the Working Families Coalition, a group that is backed by money from some of the province’s private and public unions.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has defended his government’s attempts to ban the Windsor ads while allowing those that criticize the Tories.
The Progressive Conservatives introduced legislation in the past that would have put limits on the extent to which third party advertising can be used, hoping the changes would put an end to the coalition’s ability to advertise.
It was voted down by the Liberals, and previous Tory complaints were shot down by Elections Canada and the courts.
PC critic Peter Shurman said Friday he didn’t see the need to ban third party advertising, but suggested making changes to stop collusion, which is what the Tories say happened with the Working Families Coalition.
“This really comes down to what Dalton McGuinty’s been doing: sticking Ontario families with the bill for his secret union deals,” said Shurman.
“In return, the Working Families, which is nothing but a Liberal front, has spent millions of dollars and will spend millions more attacking (Leader) Tim Hudak and our Ontario PC party.”
Laurel Broten, Minister of Children and Youth Services, noted that the NDP are themselves playing ads ahead of the campaign, and haven’t been strangers to negative attacks in the past.
“They do advance negative attacks in campaigns and so I’m not sure that their actions and the history of their actions are backed up by the gloss and spin that Andrea’s trying to put out there right now,” Broten said.
Horwath is also pushing for three televised debates across the province, possibly in northern and eastern Ontario as well as in Toronto, focusing on health care, jobs, the economy and energy.
She also wants to create a new lobbyist registry that will show not just who is lobbying but who they’re meeting and when.
Neither the Tories and nor the Liberals had a strong opinion on the possibility of more debates, saying they looked forward to bringing their message to voters in any way possible.