An Act to end partisan government advertising
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. (1)In this Act, "
Commissioner" means the Integrity Commissioner appointed under the Members' Integrity Act,1994\; ("commissaire") "
governing party" means the political party whose members form the government that produced the advertising that is the subject of a request or complaint under section 4; ("parti au pouvoir") "
government advertising" means advertising to which this Act applies. ("publicit gouvernementale")
(2)In this Act, a reference to the cost of advertising means the total amount paid by the Crown to any person or entity outside the public service in respect of the advertising.
2. This Act applies with respect to advertising that is distributed or broadcast on behalf of the Crown by a person or entity outside the public service.
3. Government advertising shall meet the following standards:
1.The advertising must be a reasonable means to achieve one or more of the following purposes:
i.To inform the public of services available to them.
ii.To inform the public of their rights and responsibilities under the law.
iii.To encourage or discourage specific social behaviour, in the public interest.
2.The advertising must not include the name, voice or image of a member of the Executive Council or a member of the Legislative Assembly.
3.The advertising must not be partisan.
4.The advertising must not have as a significant objective,
i.fostering in the public a positive impression of the government, or
ii.fostering in the public a negative impression of a person or entity that is critical of the government.
5.The advertising must include a prominent notice stating that the advertising is "Paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario", and stating the total cost of the advertising campaign of which the advertising is a part.
6.The advertising must meet such other standards as are set out in the regulations made under this Act.
Request to Commissioner
4. (1)A member of the Executive Council may request the Commissioner to decide if specified government advertising not yet made public meets the standards set out in this Act.
(2)Upon receipt of a request under subsection (1), the Commissioner shall conduct an inquiry.
Decision and reasons
(3)At the conclusion of the inquiry, the Commissioner shall provide a decision with reasons to the member of the Executive Council who made the request.
(4)Subject to subsection (5), the Commissioner's decision is final and conclusive.
(5)If a complaint to the Commissioner under section 5 concerns advertising about which the Commissioner has given a decision under this section, the Commissioner may hold an inquiry under section 5 in response to the complaint if the government made public the advertising which the Commissioner had decided did not meet the standards set out in this Act.
Complaint to Commissioner
5. (1)A member of the Legislative Assembly may make a written complaint to the Commissioner that specified government advertising does not meet the standards set out in this Act.
Basis for complaint
(2)The member shall include in the complaint which of the standards set out in section 3 that the member believes were not met, and the reasons why.
(3)Subject to subsection (4), upon receipt of a complaint under this section, the Commissioner shall conduct an inquiry.
Refusal to conduct inquiry
(4)If the Commissioner is of the opinion that a complaint is frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith, or there are no grounds or insufficient grounds for an inquiry, the Commissioner shall decide not to conduct an inquiry and shall provide the decision and reasons to the complainant.
(5)If the Commissioner conducts an inquiry based on a complaint that the standards set out in paragraph 2, 3 or 4 of section 3 were not met, the Commissioner shall hold a hearing.
Parties to an inquiry
(6)The parties to an inquiry referred to in subsection (5) are the complainant, the Crown, the governing party and such other persons as are specified by the Commissioner.
Decision and reasons
(7)At the conclusion of the inquiry, the Commissioner shall provide a decision with reasons to the complainant, to any parties to the inquiry and to the Speaker of the Assembly.
Reimbursement of costs
(8)If the Commissioner decides that advertising specified in a complaint does not meet the standards set out in paragraph 2, 3 or 4 of section 3, the Commissioner may order the governing party to reimburse the Crown for the cost of the advertising that was the subject of the complaint.
(9)The Commissioner shall file with the Superior Court of Justice a copy of his or her decision under subsection (8), exclusive of the reasons for it, at which time the decision shall be entered in the same way as a judgment or order of the court and is enforceable as such.
(10)A decision of the Commissioner under this section is final and conclusive.
6. When conducting an inquiry under this Act, the Commissioner may elect to exercise the powers of a commission under Parts I and II of the Public Inquiries Act, in which case those Parts apply to the inquiry as if it were an inquiry under that Act.
7. (1)The Commissioner shall not disclose to any person information disclosed to the Commissioner during an inquiry under section 4, or the Commissioner's decision and reasons in respect of that inquiry, except,
(a)with the consent of the member of the Executive Council who made the request;
(b)in a criminal proceeding, as required by law; or
(c)as provided in subsection (2).
Disclosure to complainant
(2)If a complaint to the Commissioner under section 5 concerns advertising about which the Commissioner has given a decision under section 4, the Commissioner shall disclose to the complainant his or her decision and reasons with respect to the specified government advertising.
8. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may by regulation establish additional standards for the purpose of section 3.
9.This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.
10.The short title of this Act is the Taxpayer Protection Act (Government Advertising Standards), 1999.
The Bill establishes standards for government advertising, including that it be in the public interest and be non-partisan. A member of Cabinet may ask the Integrity Commissioner to decide if specified government advertising meets the standards before the advertising is made public. A member of the Assembly may make a complaint to the Commissioner that specified government advertising does not meet the standards. If the Commissioner decides after a complaint that specified government advertising does not meet specified standards, the governing party may be ordered to reimburse the Crown for the cost of the advertising.