08/31/2015 04:43 EDT | Updated 08/31/2016 05:59 EDT

Ontario Pension Ad May Have Been Partisan Under Old Rules: Auditor

TORONTO — Ontario's auditor general says she would question the timing of a new pension plan ad — which is running during the federal election campaign — if the Liberal government hadn't changed the oversight rules.

The provincial government this spring amended the criteria under which the auditor general approves or rejects government ads, with auditor Bonnie Lysyk warning the changes would gut the legislation.

She said at the time it would reduce her office to a rubber stamp, and could put them in the position of approving ads that conformed to the government's new definition of partisan, but were "clearly partisan by any objective, reasonable standard."

Lysyk says there are areas of a new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan ad the government is running that she would have highlighted under the old legislation that "might be considered more partisan."

She says under the old legislation ads couldn't indirectly criticize a political party — making no distinction between federal and provincial — and she would have "suggested that perhaps the timing of running the ad could be construed as partisan."

Premier Kathleen Wynne has publicly sparred with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper over the ORPP, saying he has been refusing to co-operate with her attempts to shore up Ontarians' retirement savings, while Harper has called the new plan an "enormous tax hike."

It will be phased in starting in 2017 for employers with 500 or more workers and no workplace pension.

The new online and television ad shows a woman jumping across a river while a narrator talks about a "retirement savings gap" for people without a workplace pension.

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