A bill aimed at prohibiting partisan advertising, paid for by tax dollars, passed in the legislature during the spring sitting.
The bill, introduced by the Green Opposition, prohibits government-funded advertising from being used for partisan ends. The bill also prohibits ads that seek to portray a governing party in a flattering manner. The province’s auditor general will have the ability to investigate if an advertisement is partisan, as well as the authority to restrict the ads from being published.
Investigations can be triggered by a request from any MLA, although the auditor general can determine if the request is valid.
The bill defines advertisements as those appearing on television, radio, newspapers, on the internet, on mailed publications or on billboards.
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, who introduced the bill, said the subject of partisan advertising was debated in the legislature in the fall during the tenure of Wade MacLauchlan.
At the time, separate bills seeking to limit partisan government-sponsored ads were introduced by both the then-Opposition Progressive Conservatives and the third party Greens.
The bills were introduced following the October 2018 publication in The Guardian of an ad touting the MacLauchlan government’s carbon tax policies.
“The P.E.I. government stands with Islanders in fighting climate change while protecting their pocketbooks,” the ad read, bearing an image of a price tag with the words ‘$0 net cost to Islanders.’
With the change in government after last April’s election, Bevan-Baker said he knew a bill on the subject was likely to pass.
"This is just one of the legislative toolboxes available to tighten up what is a potential for the misspending of public funds,” Bevan-Baker said.
"It was clear that, from the government side, there was an appetite for this, so it seemed like a smart thing to do.”
The bill was one of four private members bills passed by the Greens during the spring sitting of the legislature.
One bill tightened the Island’s 2030 climate change targets, while another allowed a longer period of appeal for tenants evicted due to renovations to a property.
Another bill concerned reviews of minimum wage increases. The bill urges the Employment Standards Board to take into account measures of poverty and cost of living increases, and to consider public submissions in determining increases to the minimum wage.
This bill will also require that reports concerning minimum wage increases be made public.
“There was a concern from the business community that this be done in a more predictable and regular manner,” Bevan-Baker said.
“Then there were concerns from the other side that this was being done without taking into account the life situations of many of the people who were working full-time on minimum wage and living below the poverty line. This was an attempt to bridge that gap.”