The RCMP has launched an investigation into a number of full-page advertisements in 2020, under the name Vaughan Working Families, Ontario’s New Democratic Party says.
In the ads, which appeared in three national newspapers early last year during a tense round of contract talks with provincial teachers’ unions, Vaughan Working Families took aim at teachers unions and expressed support for the Ford government.
The ads further suggested parents supported the government’s position.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dmitri Malakhov told CBC News “the investigation into this matter is ongoing” and but that the force would not provide any further information at this time.
Stephen Thiele of Gardiner Roberts LLP, the law firm representing Vaughan Working Families, said the matter is a “minor” one and relates to an alleged contravention of third party advertising rules under provincial election law.
Thiele says the group “categorically denies” the allegation.
“VWF did not contravene any law and no charges have been laid in connection with the ads, which were simply circulated in print only in parts of the GTA to express an opinion on a matter of fundamental importance to a developed democracy: public education,” Thiele wrote in an email to CBC News.
In a news release on Tuesday, the Ontario NDP said it received confirmation from the RCMP late last week that the group, which it described as “shadowy,” was under investigation.
“Teachers were under attack from the Ford government, and they got some help in that attack from Vaughan Working Families in the form of an advertising blitz,” NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said in the news release.
“Mr. Ford and Mr. [Stephen] Lecce should tell Ontarians everything they know about these ads that came directly from their insider donors and buddies,” Tubuns added.
Following the publication of the ads, the Ontario NDP had called for an investigation, while the government denied any involvement.
NDP ethics critic Taras Natyshak said at that time that the full-page advertisements violated the province’s election spending rules.