How should precious resources be spent during an austerity budget?
Most would argue they should be spent on reducing the deficit while minimizing the reduction in essential government services.
With Ontario being $344 billion in debt, there is a lot to cut.
However, for Ford’s Progressive Conservative government it seems that essential services include Ontario News Now, a partisan PR operation disguised as a news organization.
The organization is funded by the PC party’s caucus services budget and disguised as a neutral news organization. For example, Lyndsey Vanstone who is the face of the organization and sole individual listed on the about us section, is clearly referred to as a reporter on the Ontario News now website.
It is important to note that the partisan organization current funding source is the PC caucus services budget, separate from program spending.
The caucus funds come from the legislature, in turn, that budget is supposed to be for “administrative staff, research and communication activities that help inform” recognized parties of their work.
With Ontario News Now operating as the private press corps of a large political organization, their activities hardly sounds like they would help inform the PC party.
Over the last year the government has gotten ever more brazen with how they operate Ontario News Now.
Near the end of 2018 for example, the Ford government bypassed traditional media altogether for their year end interview, opting instead to speak with Ontario News Now.
Traditionally politicians would eskew the interview all together, or have one with a few large-mainstream organizations, in most cases with a friendly view towards the politician.
This system was never perfect, but it did ensure that the government did not in effect interview itself. This is an obvious red line between positive coverage and pure state sanctioned propaganda.
While crossing this ethical line is worrying, the crux of the problem for a PC government comes from how offensive it is beginning to seem for fiscally conservative individuals, to whom the program may seem like a mixture of stupidly expensive content and horrific inefficiencies.
For example, caucus services funds were recently used to bring Ontario News Now to New York in order to cover the Premier’s meetings in the area.
Even with these exclusives and expenses, Ontario News Now’s website ranks only in the top 4.5 million on Alexa. It is tiny by every definition of the word.
On social media the picture is not much better.
Regardless of platform, the page reaches a spectacularly small crowd of people. Probably just the hyper-engaged politicos and journalists.
Even to the most partisan of fiscal Conservatives, those results are still just too abysmal to make sense.
Perhaps the legislature has so much cash, that such lacklustre spending can remain while all other operations continue.
In that case, wouldn’t you expect a prudent government to save rather than continue a program with dubious ethics lacking results?
What do you think? Should taxpayers continue to fund Ontario News Now?
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