Saskatchewan

Regina-based group behind anti-Trudeau ad campaign in national newspapers

One day before advanced polling begins, Canada's national newspapers are featuring full-page ads targeting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The group behind the advertising campaign is based in Regina.

Third-party advertiser Canada Growth Council takes its message to several provinces

This ad appeared in Thursday's edition edition of the Globe and Mail. A similar banner ad appeared on the paper's website. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

One day before advanced polling opens, Canada's national newspapers are featuring ads targeting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in a campaign created by a Regina-based group.

The front page of the National Post and its website were blanketed by the words 'It's Time For A New Prime Minister' with a picture of Trudeau.

A similar ad and message appeared in the front section of Thursday's Globe and Mail and the landing page of its website.

The ads were paid for by the third-party advertiser or political action committee Canada Growth Council (CGC). The people who founded the CGC all have ties to the Saskatchewan Party.

Earlier this year, the CGC launched a billboard campaign in several provinces featuring Liberal MPs pictured next to Trudeau.

"When he was elected in 2015, Justin Trudeau promised to clean up government ethics, be a champion for women, committed to focusing on the environment, vowed to keep promises, and strongly represent Canada internationally,"  CGC director and spokesperson Derek Robinson wrote in an email promoting the ad buy.

This is what the National Post's website looked like Thursday morning. The paper's front page featured a similar full page advertisement.

"Instead, Trudeau has had multiple ethics violations, fired several strong women who stood up to him, said one thing and did another on the environment, broke countless promises including electoral reform and balancing the budget by 2019, and had absolutely embarrassed Canada multiple times by incidents like the India trip disaster and his blackface habit," Robinson said.

Third-party advertiser raises $250K in three months

Financial returns from CGC show tremendous fundraising growth since its first billboard campaign launched in Regina in the spring. The billboards showed longtime Liberal parliamentarian Ralph Goodale next to Trudeau, with the message, Send Trudeau a Message Vote Out Ralph Goodale.

Goodale, who has represented Regina for 26 years, called the ads an "ugly American way of campaigning."

Initial financial returns filed to Elections Canada by CGC in July showed $15,000 in contributions from two Regina donors.

During the next reporting period (June 30-Aug. 30) the PAC brought in more than $182,000 from 60 individuals and business donors. More than $160,000 was raised in Saskatchewan, with many donations coming from the oil and gas areas of Estevan and Weyburn in the southeastern region of the province. 

The donations allowed CGC to expand its billboard campaign to other provinces with a focus on prominent Liberal MPs in Edmonton and Calgary.

The billboards made their way east into the the Greater Toronto Area and other Ontario battleground ridings in late August with messaging featuring Trudeau most prominently. The CGC also paid for a billboard in Trudeau's riding of Papineau in Montreal with the message Quel Féministe.

Billboards in Ontario paid for by Canada Growth Council feature former Liberal MPs, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. (Submitted by Canada Growth Council)
 

The CGC's most recent financial return, submitted at the end of September, showed more than $73,000 in donations. The vast majority, $50,000, came from Alberta-based Shaping Canada's Future. It is the largest single donation to the CGC since it was incorporated in January.

Shaping Canada's Future, a third-party advertiser, was federally incorporated in early May, with a Douglas Nelson, of Calgary listed as the sole director.

Douglas Nelson is also the name of the chief financial officer for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's campaign during his UCP leadership run in 2017. Nelson was also listed as the primary contact for a group called Shaping Alberta's Future.

However, Shaping Canada's Future is not a registered third-party advertiser for the federal election. It had a website and ran ads on Facebook and television but stopped advertising before the deadline to register as a third-party advertising for the federal election.

Registering means those parties must file financial reports with Elections Canada and are subject to spending limits during the pre-election and election period. New third-party rules were introduced this year.

Shaping Canada's Future, which says it "promotes free enterprise, lower taxes and common-sense regulation," and frequently targets Trudeau, spent an estimated $188,233 on political advertising on Facebook in June, according to information from Facebook's Ad Library.

Third parties are prohibited from colluding with a registered party, a candidate, a potential candidate or a person associated with a candidate's or potential candidate's campaign.

Third parties are also prohibited from using funds from abroad.

As well, there are limits on how much can they can spend. Prior to the election being called, they can spend as much as $1,023,400, with a limit of $10,234 per district. Once the election is called, they can spend $511,700 with a limit of $4,386 per constituency.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from Andrea Bellemare, Roberto Rocha and Catharine Tunney

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.