New provincial election advertising rules now in effect

The next provincial election isn’t until six months from now, but new advertising rules have already taken effect.

Third parties can spend $600,000 in months leading up to campaign, $100,000 during it

The next provincial election isn't for another 285 days, but new rules are now in place for election advertising spending.

The next provincial election isn't until six months from now, but new advertising rules have already taken effect.

They restrict how much unions, corporations and other groups that aren't political parties can spend on ads between now and the vote in June.

The new limits cap advertising spending at $600,000 between now and the election, and $100,000 during the campaign.

During the 2015 Sudbury byelection, the United Steelworkers Union spent $24,000 on ads, including an attack radio spot targeted at NDP MP turned Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault.

Mark Rowlinson, assistant to the national director for USW, says the union hasn't decided how it will approach the 2018 election.

But he adds USW welcomes the new restrictions, which also ban any donations to parties from unions or corporations.

"Elections should be publicly supported and limits on union and corrupt and institutional donations are a good thing," he said.

The Working Families Coalition spent $2.5 million on ads during the 2014 election. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation was one of several unions to contribute to the coalition.

James Clyke, is the local Sudbury president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

President of Sudbury-based District 3 James Clyke says the new rules will force unions to focus more on engaging their members.

"The less financial contribution you can make, the more actual feet on the ground you actually need," he said.

"That gets more people educated about the issues and I think that would be helpful."

Brock University labour studies professor Larry Savage says the new limits will make TV ads virtually impossible and says most groups will likely target your Facebook feed instead.

He says one ironic thing is that the Liberal government that is now restricting union advertising has benefited the most from spots that were generally pointed at Progressive Conservative candidates. 

"Usually the public considers politicians do things in their own self interest and it looks like this might have been a self-inflicted wound, but we won't know until the election."