Ontario’s Liberals have asked Elections Ontario to investigate Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford’s use of campaign videos that the governing party says might flout election finance rules.
In a statement released Sunday, the Liberals say they’ve asked the chief electoral officer to look into Ford Nation Live, which produces TV-news style videos.
The website features news about Ford’s campaign, with staffers speaking directly to the camera and interviewing supporters using Ford Nation-branded microphones.
There’s a note at the bottom of the website saying that it was authorized by the CFO for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.
But the Liberals allege Ford is trying to pass off “political advertising” as media coverage, noting that the videos aren’t identified as having been created by Ford’s party.
The governing party says the videos could lead some viewers to believe they’re watching a real news show.
“The Conservative campaign is not just misleading Ontarians, it may be running afoul of election laws,” a statement from the party says. “Nowhere on the Ford’s Fake News videos does the Conservative Party identify itself as having created it – a requirement in the Elections Financing Act.”
CityNews political specialist Cynthia Mulligan asked Elections Ontario last month whether one of the videos violated any election rules and they said there is nothing in the video that violates any legislation regulated by them.
She also spoke with campaign strategist Amanda Galbraith, who said while this may be a blurring of the lines, this is the Ford campaign delivering their message directly to the voters.
“If you think about their voter, they are more likely to be critical or be suspicious of the media than a Liberal voter or an NDP voter,” said Galbraith. “So this is them taking advantage of it. They’re online, on digital, not watching TV as much anymore and delivering news directly with their way, their voice.”
A spokeswoman for Ford says his campaign is not worried about the investigation request.
“Unlike Kathleen Wynne who is (campaigning) on the taxpayer’s dime, we are following the Elections Ontario rules,” said Melissa Lantsman.
At an event on Friday, Ford mentioned Ford Nation Live, saying that it would provide people at home with an opportunity to follow him on the campaign trail.
Last month, the Tories asked Elections Ontario to investigate after accusing Wynne’s government of spending public funds on campaign-style events ahead of the campaign’s official launch.
Elections Ontario has said it does not comment on complaints they receive or investigations they undertake.
Ford, Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath will hold their first debate on Monday, and the provincial election is set for June 7.