• Rob Snow

Revenge of the 3rd party

It's a sure sign this Ontario election is not like all the rest.

Ontario Proud, the anti-Liberal, anti-Wynne Facebook group, has made an ad buy. It's running a pair of slick TV spots on CP 24, another sign the election landscape has shifted in Ontario.

During the last three elections the air-war has been dominated by big labour, running anti-PC television ad campaigns worth millions of dollars.

The first ad is called "The Kathleen Wynne Collection," a playlist of the Liberal's greatest hits, pitched with a satisfying dose of retro K-Tel kitsch.

The second spot features the rich and beautiful people (the downtown Toronto elite?), wining and dining and otherwise having a fabulous time. All of this is presumably because Kathleen Wynne likes to reward her deep pocketed friends. It's effective. The final scene is particularly devastating. Both commercials are very well done, with high production value and hard selling messages that are right on point.

The dinner party spot is reminiscent of a 2014 Working Families ad, called "Backroom".

The Liberal Party is hobbled this time around, after being caught up in a cash for access scheme. The response was a major change to the election spending rules for third parties.

Under the new law, third parties are allowed to spend $600,000 in the six months prior to the election. The writ period limit is capped at $100,000. In previous elections there was no spending limit at all. "Working Families," a coalition of unions, spent $2.5-million during the writ period of the 2014 campaign. By the time election day rolled around, big labour's ad bill was close to $9-million.

"Working Families" is challenging the new law in court on Charter grounds, arguing it's an unconstitutional limit on freedom of expression. Sadly for them, karma sucks.

Stephen Harper fought this battle back in the year 2000, while leading the National Citizens Coalition. He argued spending limits on campaign advertising by third parties was an unconstitutional limit on freedom of expression. The high court agreed, but ruled the violation was justified, in the interest of "equality in the political discourse."

"In the absence of spending limits, it is possible for the affluent or a number of persons pooling their resources and acting in concert, to dominate the political discourse, depriving their opponents of a reasonable opportunity to speak and be heard, and undermining the voter’s ability to be adequately informed of all views. Equality in the political discourse is thus necessary for meaningful participation in the electoral process and ultimately enhances the right to vote. Spending limits, however, must be carefully tailored to ensure that candidates, political parties and third parties are able to convey their information to the voter; if overly restrictive, they may undermine the informational component of the right to vote." (Harper V Canada 2004)

Now it's revenge of the third party.

Kathleen Wynne's never-ending, mid-mandate fundraising machine has come back to bite her. Big union money can't flood the airwaves with millions of dollars in anti-conservative attack ads. All the while, there's Ontario Proud with hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers and now even a slick TV ad buy.

You can bet the war rooms of the nation are paying attention. For better or worse, Ontario Proud has mastered the art of the political smear for the social media age.


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#OntarioPolitics #PCParty #Advertising #Ontario #KathleenWynne

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