Advertising oversight mechanism

Advertising campaigns with budgets over $250,000 must undergo an external non-partisan review. Departments may choose to submit campaigns with smaller budgets for review.

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Non-partisan reviews

Ads are reviewed against the criteria of non-partisan advertising by Ad Standards, the not-for-profit organization that administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

Departments are responsible for ensuring that ads are reviewed internally before submitting them to Ad Standards.

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Two-stage review process

Ads are reviewed twice – early in the production process and before being made public. The process is different depending on the cost or time required for production. Departments must plan accordingly to preserve the integrity of the process.

Ads with significant production costs or time

Ads that include filming, hired talent, studio time, focus testing, etc., need to be submitted in English or French for an initial review before incurring:

  • additional production costs to correct problems identified in the review
  • unforeseen delays in planning, production, publishing or broadcasting
  • avoidable costs, such as cancellation penalties from media outlets or paying for unused advertising space or time, etc.

Ads with low production costs and presented in their final form

English and French ads can be submitted for an expedited non-partisan review if the head of communications has attested in the submission form that they will not be modified. This allows the ads to automatically advance to the final review stage.

Requesting a review

To initiate a review, departments must submit a completed Advertising review submission and evaluation form (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) along with the ads to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).

Exclusions

Announcements of a purely administrative or operational nature are excluded from the review process. Some examples include:

  • public hearings, employment offers, notices of public consultation, requests for tenders or changes to office business hours
  • messages to the public regarding urgent matters affecting public health and safety or the environment

Public complaints about partisanship in advertising

Submit a complaint about partisanship in government ads to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

General questions or comments about government advertising that are not related to partisanship can be submitted to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

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