01/12/2015 06:52 EST | Updated 03/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Apprentice Ad Claim Elicits NDP Complaint To Industry Watchdog


The Opposition New Democrats say they have filed a complaint with the ad industry's self-regulatory watchdog calling for a review of a new government ad touting a loan for apprentices because it contains "misleading" information.

The complaint comes after CBC News reported that a new ad, claiming the Canadian economy will need "one million skilled tradesmen and women" over the next decade, was unsupported by independent forecasts and even the government's own projections.

The government pointed CBC News to "a combination of industry estimates" to support its claim but a closer look at those estimates showed Canada will need mainly high-skilled workers.

Jinny Sims, the NDP critic for employment and social development, said she filed a complaint on Monday with Advertising Standards Canada, the national not-for-profit advertising self-regulatory body, asking for a review of the ad.

"We're asking them to review it and if the ad doesn't meet the standards — absolutely this government needs to pull the ad.

"They've got to stop playing games with public dollars," Sims said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Alexandra Fortier, the spokeswoman for Employment Minister Jason Kenney, denied that the ad is misleading.

"What is misleading is the [CBC] article, not the ad," she said in an email on Monday.

Sims said this isn't the first time the government has spent public funds to advertise "misleading" information.

The government quietly adjusted its labour data last May after the Globe and Mail reported that a claim of rising job shortages contained in budget documents was based on a problematic software program.

Global News also reported that the government pulled an ad in August 2013 that promoted a jobs grant that did not yet exist following multiple complaints alleging it was misleading.

The government spent approximately $2.5 million to promote the Canada Job Grant before the provinces ever agreed to the program.

Sims said the government's claim that the new loan for apprentices is interest free is also misleading.

"In that they never mention the fact that the loan is only interest free for the period of the apprenticeship and that once the apprentice finished training and begins to pay off the loan, the loan will in fact accumulate interest."

Janet Feasby, the vice-president of Advertising Standards Canada, said she could not comment on any complaint filed with the agency as the council treats all complaints in a confidential manner.

She explained that once a complaint is received, the agency will contact the advertiser and give them 10 working days to respond to the complaint. 

A ruling will generally come within three to four weeks after a complaint is received, as the council usually meets once a month.

Only advertisers found to have contravened the code of advertising standards have their names posted on the watchdog's web site.

If an advertiser withdraws or amends their ad before the complaint is heard by the council, then the name of the advertiser is not made public.

The government told CBC News that ESDC consulted Advertising Standards Canada before airing the ads and verified that "requirements under the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards were met."

Feasby could not confirm that citing a confidential process.


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