Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), Canada’s independent advertising self-regulatory body, has been requested to provide advertising review services for all Government of Canada advertisements.

The ASC administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which sets the criteria for acceptable advertising in Canada.  The ASC typically provides advertising preclearance services, and adjudicates consumer complaints and advertising disputes. The Government of Canada looks to draw on the experience and expertise of the ASC to perform unique review service for federal government ads.

The ASC’s task of reviewing government ads results from the government’s Policy on Communications and Federal Identity (Policy) published on May 11, 2016. The Policy sets out the government’s responsibilities and requirements when administering communications to the public. The Government of Canada recognizes that the way in which communications are delivered to the public affects the value and credibility of the information and the how it is received by the public. As such, the Policy states that among other requirements, “government communications must be objective, factual, non-partisan, clean and written in plain language”.

According to the government’s news release, the government is “putting an end to partisan use of government advertising” and governmental departments are now required to submit advertising materials to the ASC for review at two stages: (1) before the department invests significantly into the development of the advertising materials; and (2) prior to publication or broadcast of the ad. The ASC’s review will aim to ensure that the ads are “non-partisan” in accordance with the Policy. The Government of Canada’s Policy defines “non-partisan” as:

  • Objective, factual and explanatory;
  • Free from political party slogans, images, identifiers; bias; designation; or affiliation;
  • The primary colour associated with the governing party is not used in a dominant way, unless an item is commonly depicted in that colour; and
  • Advertising is devoid of any name, voice or image of a minister, Member of Parliament or senator.

The news release also states that certain administrative and operational ads, such as request for tenders, and public hearings, among others, will be exempt from the ASC’s review. The ASC’s of review government advertisements will be effective immediately and will be audited after one year of implementation.