TORONTO — Political ads will be filling Ontario airwaves for the next several weeks as parties pour millions of dollars into a pre-election advertising blitz before spending limits kick in next month.
Both the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives have dropped pre-election ads in recent days, highlighting what they see as their leaders' strengths and the other party's weaknesses. The Liberals say theirs are on the way.
In early November, the parties will be restricted to spending $1 million on advertising in the six months before the campaign period leading up to the June 2 vote.
For the first time in its history, the NDP said it's able to compete with the traditionally big ad buys from the other two parties.
Campaign director Michael Balagus said the party is taking advantage of the $2 million it has raised so far this year, on top of a large surplus from the end of last year. Elections Ontario audited statements show the year-end surplus at more than $6 million, versus more than $5 million for the Progressive Conservatives and more than $2 million for the Liberals.
"The very, very successful fundraising that we've been able to do - that's allowed us for the first time in our history to spend this kind of money going to the people of Ontario at such an important time, at such a level," he said.
Balagus said the NDP expects to match the Tories dollar for dollar in this pre-election ad spending
"Our party has never in its history been in this strong a financial position," he said.
"The bottom line is, we historically have been outspent in elections, and it's hurt us. We will not be outspent in this election."
Most of the money is being spent to contrast NDP Leader Andrea Horwath with Premier Doug Ford, Balagus said, highlighting Horwath personally and the party's vision, as well as the Progressive Conservatives' record.
A smaller, digital ad buy, is going toward attacking Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, he said. The NDP and Tory attack ads against Del Duca are similar, both using footage of him silently staring at the camera during a virtual news conference.
The ads tie Del Duca to the previous Liberal government, in which he served as a cabinet minister, and remind voters of the issue of high hydro bills that dogged the Liberals in their last months in power.
The other Progressive Conservative ads portray Ford as someone who always says "yes," while Horwath "says one thing and does another."
When asked to explain the strategy behind their ads, a PC party spokeswoman said "our ads speak for themselves."
Liberal campaign director Christine McMillan said their ads will be focusing on Del Duca's "positive vision."
"In the weeks to come, we'll release ads that highlight forward thinking ideas that address Ontario's needs," she said in a statement.
"The Ontario Liberal Party understands people want to see a real plan for their future, not the mud slinging that’s become a staple of NDP and Conservative campaigns."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press