Reality check: Dissecting the claims of campaign ads

Watch video above:  Jackson Proskow looks at the claims made in the latest round of campaign ads and explains why ads are important to a campaign. 

TORONTO – The Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and NDP marked the end of a two-week blackout on election advertising – yes, it’s only been two weeks. Just four more to go! – by releasing their own ads.

The NDP attacked the Liberals; the Liberals attacked the Tories; the Tories, who spent the last three years criticizing the Liberals, focused on their jobs plan.

But the statements made in each ad, despite their tone, may not be entirely true.

The Liberals

“…Tim Hudak wants to make classrooms more crowded, cut teachers and health care and somehow make our economy grow by firing 100,000 people.

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Wynne spends most of her 30-second television ad spouting vague statements about their plan; creating jobs, investing in transit, creating “fair pensions.”

She takes a shot at Hudak though, claiming he will “fire” 100,000 people. But that’s not entirely accurate.

Tim Hudak does plan to reduce the government payroll by 100,000. But he won’t be handing out 100,000 pink slips. Instead he hopes to use attrition: “when employees retire, many of these positions will not be filled.”

We still don’t know how many people will be fired outright and how many positions will be left vacant, or where Hudak will find these vacancies if not from health-care workers or the police, as he has promised. His team says it will include municipal workers as well as those on the province’s payroll.

The Progressive Conservatives

“We’re facing a jobs crisis in the province of Ontario: There are one million people out of work”

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Are there a million people “out of work” in Ontario? Or is Hudak exaggerating a little?

Ontario’s most recent unemployment figures stood at roughly 555,600 people.  But that only includes those actively looking for work – not those who’ve dropped out of the workforce altogether.

A senior member of the PC campaign told Global News that million-person figure from comparing the province’s participation rate prior to the recession to today’s.  The Tories say that by doing this, the number is close to a million.

(Statistics Canada calculates the participation rate by comparing those working and looking for work to the entire population aged 15 and over)

In March 2008, there were 6.56 million Ontarians employed out of a total working-aged population of 10.45 million, with a participation rate of 67.4 per cent.

In April 2014, there were 6.87 million Ontarians employed out of a working-aged population of 11.3 million and a participation rate of 65.6 per cent.

That’s a smaller percentage of the population actively working or looking for work, but still doesn’t add up to a million unemployed Ontarians.

And Eric Kam, a professor of economics at Ryerson University, said it’s next to impossible to quantify how many people are out of work and looking for work.

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“It is nearly impossible to put a number on them because nowhere on an employment survey where they get the data, is it going to say, are you discouraged and are you sitting at home and not looking for a job? Because if they say yes to that, there goes their unemployment benefits,” he said.


The NDP’s first ad is a traditional attack ad. Even the title, “The Liberal Record: 10 years of mismanagement” suggests the Liberals aren’t up to the job.

Claim 1: “Liberals wasted billions on Ehealth, Ornge, [and] cancelling gas plants.”

It’s true the Liberal government spent billions on these three projects since 2003. But it’s important to note that the Conservatives agreed with the Liberals prior to the 2011 election that the gas plants should go – and both promised that, were they elected, they’d do so.

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Whether they would have gotten a better deal than the Liberals, given a rather damning  auditor-general’s report, is another question altogether.

Claim 2: “Liberals gave public CEOs huge bonuses, [and] outrageous salaries.”

That depends how you define “huge” and “outrageous.”

Tom Mitchell, president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation topped the 2014 Sunshine List with an income (including bonuses) of $1.71 million.

Next was OPG’s chief nuclear officer Wayne Robbins, who earned $920,713.

These were much higher than Carmine Marcello, the President and CEO of Hydro One who brought in $728,570.

But the Liberals planned to bring forward a bill to cap public sector salaries, a demand made by the NDP in 2013 in exchange for their support of the budget. That bill, however, was never introduced.

The NDP ad cites a CityTV story entitled “Girlfriend glided into VP job at Ornge.” Global News has been unable to find that story but did find a similarly titled one from several other outlets. The story alleged Ornge founder Chris Mazza hired his girlfriend Kelly Long to work at the troubled air-ambulance with little experience.

Claim 3: “Wynne raised the price of hydro rates.”

Hydro rates are projected to increase approximately 40 per cent in the next four years.

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WATCH: Tony Chapman, Founder and CEO of Capital C, breaks down what makes a good political ad

With files from Jackson Proskow


Note: A previous version of this article claimed the NDP had supported the cancellation of two gas plants. It has since been removed.

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