POLITICS
02/03/2020 13:34 EST | Updated 02/03/2020 13:38 EST

‘Shady’ Anti-Teachers’ Union Ads Might Break Election Rules: Taras Natyshak

The ads, placed by a group called “Vaughan Working Families,” accuse teachers’ unions of using kids as pawns.

Ontario Legislative Assembly
Ontario MPP Taras Natyshak speaks to reporters about ads placed by a group called "Vaughan Working Families" at Queen's Park in Toronto on Feb. 3, 2020.

TORONTO — The provincial NDP is calling on Elections Ontario to investigate “shady” advertisements that appeared in major newspapers over the weekend. 

“There’s something concerning here,” NDP MPP Taras Natyshak told reporters at Queen’s Park Monday. 

“Whoever placed this advertisement had the full intention of causing more chaos ... This does nothing to de-escalate any of the tensions that might exist at the bargaining table. In fact, it escalates the tensions.”

The ads, placed by a mysterious group called “Vaughan Working Families,” show a frowning woman holding a report card graded with a “F” and the message: “Teachers’ Union leaders are risking student success. Children are not pawns.”

All of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are engaged in rotating strikes or work-to-rule campaigns amidst contentious contract negotiations with the government. 

Earlier: Premier Doug Ford says his patience for teachers’ unions won’t last forever.

 

Natyshak, who serves as his party’s ethics critic, alleges the ads break election financing rules because voters in two Ottawa ridings are set to elect new MPPs in byelections on Feb. 27. Any groups that conduct political advertising during election periods are subject to Elections Ontario rules

Natyshak said there is no evidence to link the ads to the government at this time, but that the ads have “all the hallmarks of a Doug Ford smear campaign.”

Elections Ontario would not confirm whether or not it would investigate the matter, but said that any third party that spends more than $500 on political ads during a by-election campaign must register.

“Political advertising also includes advertising with respect to an issue of public policy during an election for which one or more registered political parties or candidates may also have taken a position,” spokesperson Lisa Camps said by email.

Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who represents the riding of King-Vaughan, have previously accused the unions of using children as “pawns” and regularly blamed “union leaders” for hurting families by going on strike. But the government denied having any knowledge of the ads. 

“The government was not aware of the advertisements and not familiar with the group Vaughan Working Families,” Lecce’s spokesperson Alexandra Adamo told HuffPost Canada by email Monday. 

There is no website or Facebook page for any group called “Vaughan Working Families.” A Twitter account by the name, with Vaughan misspelled “Vaughn,” appeared online this weekend. It follows only four accounts: Ford, Lecce, the Ontario PC party and the federal Conservative party.