Provincial voters deserve better than simulated news


It’s completely legitimate to use stories to your advantage, but creating an entirely new narrative without informing your audience is unacceptable. 

In an age where news and opinion are increasingly difficult to distinguish, this is exactly what Doug Ford has done.

In 2012, on his Newstalk1010 radio show, Ford scoffed that journalists “sensationalize and lie through their teeth.” Flash forward six years, and the Ontario Conservative leader is combatting tension with the media through the creation of his own news. 

Ford’s latest online promotional videos simulate television news, complete with a reporter played by his press secretary and executive assistant, Lyndsey Vanstone, and glowing interviews with constituents. Critically, no disclaimer or indication of bias is given except for a discreet “Ford Nation” logo in the bottom corner. 

Fake news is an increasingly dangerous epidemic—but Ford’s format is arguably more dangerous than what’s considered traditional fake news. When news sources paint Ford and his party in an unflattering light, he responds by making his own news—effectively trying to extinguish a fire by pouring gas on it. As Ford attempts to drown out establishment media with sponsored campaign material, he challenges the trustworthiness of honest reporting. 

Unless Ford’s campaign clearly identifies the video’s promotional nature, it seems as if it’s working to hoodwink viewers while avoiding the repercussions of outright dishonesty. 

Elections Ontario’s campaign regulations are not restrictive, lending politicians the room to bend the truth more than ever before. 

And this is where the problem lies.

“Ford Nation” broadcasts are not typical promotional material. Where press releases and campaign ads benignly seek attention, Ford’s videos actively pretend to be what they’re not—unbiased truth. It’s misleading and dishonest to give viewers fiction under the guise of the facts they asked for.   

Provincial parties need better media regulations to draw the line between fact and fantasy so voters are sufficiently informed. If this action is left to the parties, it will never take place. The Ontario Conservatives have expanded the scope for potential mass-media manipulation, and this opens the door for all parties to engage in similar behaviour. 

When our parties do not present accurate information, our ability to make an informed vote is threatened. It’s up to Elections Ontario to enforce more specific guidelines and demand disclaimers within campaign advertising. 

—Journal Editorial Board

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