PEI

Opposition parties move to restrict P.E.I. government advertising

Members of both opposition parties have tabled private members bills to limit the type of ads the P.E.I. government is allowed to place.

Describing one ad as 'blatantly partisan,' PCs and Greens table similar bills

Both opposition parties in the P.E.I. legislature have taken issue with a government ad that appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian Oct. 27. (bradtrivers.com)

Members of both opposition parties have tabled private members bills which would limit the types of ads the P.E.I. government is allowed to place.

Members of both parties also took the MacLauchlan government to task in question period Thursday over an ad that appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian Oct. 27.

The ad touted government's approach to carbon pricing, saying it came with no cost for Islanders, while stating "all other plans" would cost households $1,000 over two years.

"Do you think the provincial government should spend public money on partisan ads?" Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker asked Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen and Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker have each tabled bills that would prohibit government advertising deemed 'partisan' by the auditor general. (bradtrivers.com)

"I believe the provincial government should and does, spend money on public engagement, on public information," MacLauchlan responded.

"It seems to me that the leader of the third party thinks that anything you do to communicate with the public ... is partisan. It's only partisan because he doesn't like it."

Under Bevan-Baker's Government Advertising Standards Act (No. 2), government would not be allowed to place ads that were deemed partisan by the auditor general.

Similar bill tabled by Robert Ghiz

Also prohibited would be ads including the name, voice or image of a cabinet minister or MLA, or ads where the "primary objective of the item [is] to foster a positive impression of the government party or a negative impression of a person or entity that is critical of the government."

Bevan-Baker told the legislature his bill mirrors laws in other province, and also draws from a bill introduced in the P.E.I. legislature in 2004 by Robert Ghiz — then Opposition leader.

That bill never became law.

PC MLA Sidney MacEwen's Government Advertising Standards Act would enforce similar restrictions on government advertising.

He said the Oct. 27 ad was "blatantly partisan."

While the print ad didn't explicitly state what other carbon plans government's plan was being compared with, a graphic tweeted the same day by the Liberal party compared the Liberal carbon plan with those from the PCs and Greens. The tweet included the same statement as the government ad: "Government stands with Islanders in fighting climate change while protecting their pocketbooks."

"It bothers me when I see these lines being blurred between a political party and a government," MacEwen said.

He said his bill is word-for-word the same as the bill tabled by Ghiz in 2004.

"Is the bill perfect? No, actually," he said.

"I wanted to prove a point that at one time the Liberal party didn't believe in that, when they were in opposition. Now 10 years later we're seeing it again."

About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature. kerry.campbell@cbc.ca