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Thread: Ad critical of teacher unions linked to lawyer with PC connections

  1. #1

    Ad critical of teacher unions linked to lawyer with PC connections

    Ad critical of teacher unions linked to lawyer with PC connections

    By KRISTIN RUSHOWY QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU
    ROBERT BENZIE QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF

    Thu., Feb. 6, 2020

    A mysterious full-page newspaper ad attacking teachers unions has been traced to a Vaughan lawyer with Progressive Conservative connections, the Star has learned.

    Invoices were sent to Loopstra Nixon LLP for the colour advertisements that were placed by a group calling itself “Vaughan Working Families” in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Sun last weekend.

    Calls to the law firm were forwarded to partner Quinto Annibale, whom the Conservatives appointed as vice-chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario last April.

    Vic Fedeli, who was Premier Doug Ford’s finance minister at the time, announced the three-year appointment in the legislature and introduced the lawyer from the visitors gallery.

    It is unclear if it was a client of the law firm who commissioned the ad, at an estimated cost of more than $200,000.

    According to corporate records, Annibale is a director of “Vaughan Working Families.” The name was registered in 2018 by an advocacy group called Vaughan Health Campus of Care, which lobbies for hospital improvements in Vaughan.

    “We have no comment,” Annibale said when contacted by the Star on Thursday.

    Last March, in testimony before a legislative committee examining his appointment, Annibale said he had previously served as chair of the board at Villanova College, a private Catholic school in King City.

    “I am a member of the Conservative Party of Ontario,” Annibale told the committee. “I have not been a member of the federal Conservative Party. I’ve been a member of both the Liberal Party and the NDP in the past.”

    He has also donated money to the Progressive Conservatives.

    When Annibale was a law student at Queen’s University in 1984, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, complaining about “Tory patronage appointments” and “recent Tory fiascoes” under PC premier Bill Davis.

    The ads placed last weekend contained the phrases “Teachers’ unions are risking student success” and “Children are not pawns.” They included a stock photo of a woman holding up a mock report card, which contained a number of grammatical errors.

    They were placed on the eve of widespread strikes this week by three of the four Ontario teacher unions.

    A second blitz of the paid ads had been scheduled to be published this week, but they were pulled at the last minute.

    Ford’s office has strongly denied any connection to the ads.

    Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office said he was “not involved or aware of the creation of these advertisements.”

    “The minister has not spoken to the mentioned individual in regards to this. His focus remains on keeping students in class,” spokesperson Alexandra Adamo said.

    A senior Conservative official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations, conceded the ads could have been placed by an overzealous supporter.

    “We do not think this is helpful in any way,” the official confided, speculating that the mystery advertiser may think countering union ads bolsters the government’s position in an ongoing public relations war with teachers.

    “It doesn’t,” the Tory said with a sigh.

    Neil Oliver, president of Torstar Daily News Brands, said the advertisement should not have been published in the Star because it did not specify who was behind it or include contact information, such as a website address.

    “Through inadvertence, the ad slipped through our (vetting) processes,” Oliver said. “I apologize to our readers for the error, as we hold ourselves to a standard that on this occasion we did not reach.”

    Toronto’s other three daily newspapers have so far not commented on the ads or whether they were vetted for content.

    At the Star — as at most newspapers — the advertising and editorial departments are separate entities.

    The group “Vaughan Working Families” has no online presence and there was no contact information for it in the print ads.

    Its name is similar to Working Families, a coalition of unions that has been doing political advertising in Ontario since 2003. Working Families has said it “is in no way, shape or form, affiliated with Vaughan Working Families” and is considering legal action.

    New Democrat MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) has called for Elections Ontario to investigate whether the ads violate provincial campaign finance laws because they were placed during the byelection period in Ottawa-Vanier and Orleans. Votes will be held in those ridings on Feb. 27.

    Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee Norm Di Pasquale formally complained to the industry group Ad Standards about the ads, which include a claim that teachers work “about eight months of the year.”

    However, Ad Standards said it does not have jurisdiction in this case. “As a self-regulatory body, we enforce the (Canadian) Code of Advertising Standards, which excludes political advertising,” it said on Twitter.

    “We also do not have authority to investigate advertiser funding. However, we alerted the carrying media about the concerns shared to give voice to all concerned.”

    Green party Leader Mike Schreiner has said he is “very suspicious that a group with no online presence that uses stock photos from Poland actually represents the parents of Vaughan,” referring to a Press Progress report about the photo used in the ad.

    “How can a group that appears to have been created out of thin air afford full-page ad space in Canada’s most-read newspapers? All signs point to something disingenuous at play,” Schreiner said, adding, “I urge the people behind these ads to be transparent about who they are.”

    Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

    Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

    https://www.thestar.com/politics/pro...nnections.html

  2. #2


    Lecce with Quinto Annibale and others

  3. #3
    What a surprise that these "working families" are actually one of Ford's cronies.

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