A new third-party political action group will make its television debut Monday night ahead of the Raptors playoff game with two 30-second spots that attack Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Global News has learned.
The ads come from a group called Shaping Canada’s Future, and they reprise the cast and theme of some advertising run by the Conservative Party of Canada during the 2015 election campaign — the so-called “job interview” ads in which a group of people looked over Trudeau’s resume and pronounced him “just not ready.” At the end of the ad, one of the actors in the spot observed: “Nice hair, though.”
Now, the same group of actors are back. In two separate ads, they review the Trudeau record and, not surprisingly, are unimpressed with it. There are no cracks this time, though, about Trudeau’s hair.
The people behind Shaping Canada’s Future and the source of its funding are about as opaque as its progressive-minded mirror, Engage Canada, which has been running a series of television, radio and online ads attacking Andrew Scheer as “weak” and likely to be just like Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Doug Ford or Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
Global News was tipped about the organization and about Shaping Canada’s Future decision to buy ad space on the televised broadcast ahead of the Raptors game from an individual in the Toronto marketing and advertising world.
Engage Canada bills itself as a non-partisan third party founded by former Liberal and NDP strategists and made up of individuals, labour organizations and professional associations that share the common goal of ensuring Scheer never becomes prime minister. The group was similarly active against former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in the run-up to the 2015 campaign.
Neither Engage Canada nor Shaping Canada’s Future has disclosed the sources of their funding or the names of those who run each organization and are designing or creating the ads.
Shaping Canada’s Future and Engage Canada will both air ads ahead of and during the telecast of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. Toronto, ahead 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, could win its first-ever NBA championship Monday night with a victory.
The Conservative Party of Canada has also been running television ads throughout the basketball playoffs, introducing Scheer to viewers as a regular guy from a middle-class family who’ll repeal the carbon tax and otherwise help make life more affordable for average folks.
Ads that run during the NBA Finals would be among the most expensive available, reaching an audience of some 10 million or more Canadians who have rallied behind the Raptors as “Canada’s team.”
Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann said he was not aware the organization existed until Global News asked him about it.
A message left at the toll-free phone number posted on Shaping Canada’s Future website was not immediately returned. Shaping Canada’s Future appears to be similar in tone and design to Shaping Alberta’s Future, which ran third-party ads attacking Rachel Notley’s NDP and in support of Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party during the recent Alberta election campaign. According to filings with Elections Alberta, Shaping Alberta’s Future raised about $375,000 for its activities, most of that from car dealers in Alberta.
Shaping Alberta’s Future lists a mailing address in Calgary. The website for Shaping Canada’s Future has no such address.
Shaping Canada’s Future, Engage Canada and other third-party advertisers are currently unregulated. They may spend what they wish and they do not have to provide Elections Canada with any information about their activities.
That will change, though, on June 30 when the provisions of Bill C-76 kick in. C-76 contains the Trudeau government’s amendments to the Canada Elections Act and other legislation with an aim towards providing more transparency — and more restrictions — for third-party advertising.
As of June 30, any third-party advertiser spending more than $500 will have to register with Elections Canada. Moreover, those third parties may only spend a total of about $1 million between June 30 and the dropping of the writ ahead of the Oct. 21 general election. During the writ period, third parties will be prohibited from spending more than $511,700 on any ads. There is also a riding-level spending limit of about $10,000 in the pre-writ period and $4,386 during the writ period.
—With a file from the Canadian Press