Liberals defend Trudeau's upcoming appearance in federally-funded promotional campaign
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with celebrity chef Kristen Kish, in an Instagram post (Source: Instagram / justinpjtrudeau)
Published Thursday, May 12, 2016 4:29PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 12, 2016 4:53PM EDT
Even as it moves to restrict partisan government advertising, the Liberal government is defending Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming appearance in a promotional campaign funded by a federal tourism agency.
Trudeau makes an appearance in a yet-to-be-released video created for Destination Canada, the Crown corporation that promotes Canadian tourism domestically and abroad.
The video is part of a campaign that is intended to promote Canada’s food and restaurant culture to U.S. tourists. It features a conversation between Trudeau and American celebrity chef Kristen Kish.
The video was recorded last month at trendy Montreal restaurant Garde Manger with chef Chuck Hughes at an undisclosed expense to Destination Canada.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison on Thursday announced new rules to prohibit partisanship in government -- including a ban on ministers, MPs and senators from appearing in government ads.
But the Prime Minister’s Office says that the tourism video Trudeau appears in is not subject to this restriction.
“The not-yet launched [Destination Canada] video the Prime Minister participated in is not an advertisement,” said PMO director of communication Kate Purchase in an email.
“It's a social media video with no advertising dollars behind it and so does not run counter to the policy.”
The policy announced by Brison comes in response to the former Conservative government’s advertising campaigns, which critics charged often blurred the lines between public engagement and partisan interests.
Among the most contentious was a series of weekly videos focused on then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s activities. Called “24/7,” the short videos were available only online and never broadcast.
Purchase declined to say whether 24/7 videos would also be considered “social media” and not covered by the new policy prohibiting partisanship.
Destination Canada approached the PMO to request Trudeau participate, she said.
“It talks about Canadian food scene overall as well as well as why different vacations and adventures in Canada you can have,” she said. “It’s really not about him. It’s more about Canada.”
Brison announced Thursday that, effective immediately, all government advertising campaigns valued at more than $500,000 will be subject to independent review by Advertising Standards Canada to ensure they are not partisan.
Under the new policy, the ads must be objective and factual, and free of any party slogans or images. The ads are further restricted in their use of colours that could be associated with the governing party, Brison said.
And the advertising must be “devoid of any name, voice or image of a minister, member of Parliament or senator.”
The Destination Canada video was to be unveiled by Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger’s department last month but the launch was repeatedly delayed after CTV requested a copy of the video.
At the time, Conservative MP Andrew Scheer told CTV News that a Crown corporation should not be producing any kind of advertising featuring the prime minister.
“The fact that taxpayers dollars are being used is inappropriate,” Scheer said. “He’s not the face of Canada. He happens to lead the government today.”
Other politicians have appeared in government-sponsored tourism advertising, notably then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York City mayor Ed Koch.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi also appeared in ads promoting tourism to Calgary after the 2013 floods.