Why is it controversial? The ad was published in the North Bay Nugget on September 23rd, 2008 (during the writ period) and it doesn’t appear to contain the words “approved by the official agent for Anthony Rota”. If my eyes do not deceive me, this would be in contravention of s.320 and s.321 of the Elections Act.
Those sections are,
320. A candidate or registered party, or a person acting on their behalf, who causes election advertising to be conducted shall mention in or on the message that its transmission was authorized by the official agent of the candidate or by the registered agent of the party, as the case may be.
321. (1) No person shall knowingly conduct election advertising or cause it to be conducted using a means of transmission of the Government of Canada.
(2) For the purpose of subsection (1), a person includes a group within the meaning of Part 17.
This appears to be an ad authorized by Anthony Rota as an MP. If that’s the case, he’s advertising himself (he’s now a candidate) using his MP office.
UPDATE: Rota’s campaign explains that the ads were bought prior to the writ drop. According to them, this makes it legal. Since Rota couldn’t have known when the writ period was going to be, this is an understandable oversight. However, according to my reading of the law, the act is clear on these two sections. Rota should have cancelled the ads. I wouldn’t accuse Rota of cheating because of this. Instead, I’d chalk it up to an unfortunate coincidence that could be interpreted as a violation of the Act.
Elections Canada disagrees and claims that the content doesn’t appear to be election advertising. Then again, Elections Canada is quite a subjective arbiter on what constitutes election advertising and in who’s name elections advertising is done (MP/candidate and federal/local). I suppose the Prime Minister now has the green light to circumvent the spending limit by buying the back page of every single paper in the country (with taxpayer money, natch) to say “Hi, I’m the PM” and as long as he doesn’t say “Vote for me, I’m the PM”, it’s all good.