Source: Facebook

A former Ontario NDP operative and owner of an anti-conservative and left-wing “fact check” website was fined for violating the Canada Elections Act. 

Ethan Phillips, who edits the website Canada Fact Check, was cited for breaking partisan advertising rules and failing to register as a third-party advertiser for incurring over $500 on Facebook ads during the 2019 federal election.  

“The promoted ads contained the required elements of partisan advertising, as defined at subsections 2(1) and 2(7) of the Canada Elections Act (the Act), as they opposed a registered party, the election of a potential candidate, or the leader of a registered party,” wrote elections commissioner Caroline J. Simard. 

“Evidence established by the Facebook Ad Library provides reasonable grounds to believe that Ethan Phillips incurred costs of over $500 for the promoted ads.”

According to Facebook’s ad library, Canada Fact Check ran two ads during the pre-election period targeting then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. 

One of the ads warned about the alleged “dangers of an Andrew Scheer federal Conservative government.

“The ad alleged that Scheer was “profoundly uncomfortable with the increase in visible minority Canadians.” 

“The Conservative Party of Canada and conservative provincial parties like Doug Ford’s Ontario conservative party, are not like the Liberals, NDP or Greens,” wrote Canada Fact Check.

“They are both nurturing and beholden to a minority, right-wing voting block that distrusts expertise and hard facts, dislikes change, and is profoundly uncomfortable with the increase in visible minority Canadians.” 

The ad also linked to a charged opinion article by Phillips, presented as a “fact check” that claimed Conservative voters were “angry and resentful.” The ad received between 150,000 and 175,000 impressions.

Another ad compared Scheer to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, linking to another opinion article by Phillips presented as a “fact check” on “right-wing populism” and how the Conservatives were purportedly anti-immigration.

“What this means is that any campaign rhetoric that equates ‘Canadian values’ with multiculturalism and high levels of immigration will only exacerbate the anger of this right-wing, populist voting block,” wrote Phillips.

According to Phillips’ LinkedIn page, he was a director and senior researcher with the Ontario NDP for 13 years until March 2015 and currently works as a government consultant for a firm he owns.