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Elections Ontario says attack ads against education unions may have violated provincial law

Click to play video: 'Ontario PC appointee linked to mystery ad campaign' Ontario PC appointee linked to mystery ad campaign
WATCH ABOVE: (Feb. 7) The mystery is clearing up over who placed full page ads in three of Canada’s largest newspapers to tout government talking points on education. Travis Dhanraj reports – Feb 7, 2020

Elections Ontario says attack ads aimed at education unions in the province appear to have violated the Election Finances Act.

The ads were published in newspapers in February and accused teachers’ union leaders of using children as “pawns” in tense contract talks which led to strike action throughout the province.

The ads were published by a group called Vaughan Working Families and questions were raised by the NDP on whether or not the ads violated election spending rules because they came at a time when there were two byelections underway in Ottawa-area ridings.

Read more: Lawyer linked to Ontario education union attack ads went on government-led trade mission

The NDP also alleged supporters of the government may have purchased the ads, but didn’t provide evidence.

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Global News later learned that a lawyer linked to the ads travelled to India on an Ontario government-led trade mission in 2019 and was a PC Party donor.

“The Chief Electoral Officer has reviewed all the evidence in relation to this matter and decided that there has been an apparent contravention of [sections] of the Election Finances Act by Vaughan Health Campus of Case, a company operating business as Vaughan working Families, by its failure to register with Elections Ontario as a third party,” Elections Ontario said.

Read more: NDP legislator calls for investigation of newspaper ads criticizing teachers’ unions

“The Chief Electoral Officer has therefore reported this matter to the Ministry of the Attorney General.”

If convicted, the penalty is a fine of not more than $5,000.

Premier Doug Ford was asked about the ads during a press conference Wednesday.

“I had nothing to do with that but I guess it’s at the AG’s office and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

— With files from Travis Dhanraj

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