POLITICS

Nova Scotia communications wing would have to ensure advertising is non-partisan

12/02/2013 02:20 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - Messages and advertising from the Nova Scotia government's communications agency would have to be non-partisan under legislation introduced Monday by the provincial government.

Andrew Younger, the minister who oversees Communications Nova Scotia, said the changes would also lead to more consistent standards in communications products and services while ensuring that the government's communications are factual and relevant to policies and priorities.

Younger said the revisions to the Public Service Act would also ensure taxpayers' dollars are protected from politically motivated signs.

"The government has no intention to use CNS for political gain in advertising, in signage and so forth," he said.

"We have seen this happen in the past and there are ads that should not have been published that were."

Younger pointed to campaigns launched by the previous NDP government as examples of advertising that he said would now be inappropriate. They included the "Hi, I'm Percy" tourism ads that featured former tourism minister Percy Paris soliciting people's ideas for marketing Nova Scotia.

Younger said the ad wasn't handled by Communications Nova Scotia, which would now be required to administer all aspects of advertising, including handling contracts with firms outside of the government. He said that would also allow better tracking of just how much is being spent on advertising.

Signs with slogans similar to those used in political campaigns have since been taken down and the Liberal government will not use their slogan from the most recent campaign, "Nova Scotia First," Younger said.

"You might hear me say, 'Nova Scotia First' ... but you won't see that in any advertising done by the government and that's where that line is," he said.

New guidelines would also prohibit hypersexualized images such as those contained in the "Do Me" and "Take Me" ads that were run on bus stops in an effort to raise awareness among teen boys and young men about sexual assault.

The changes would also require the minister to provide an annual report to the legislature on paid advertising to the Executive Council.

NDP house leader Frank Corbett dismissed the legislation as not being "completely necessary." He also took issue with Younger's assertion that the former government used advertising in inappropriate ways.

"What we did is we used it to inform Nova Scotians," said Corbett.