The Ontario Liberal government spent $4 million in taxpayers dollars on an online and television advertising campaign in September 2015 to sell its controversial sex-ed curriculum, LifeSiteNews has learned through documents obtained in a Freedom of Information request.
Email correspondence from Education Minister Liz Sandals also reveals she opposed MPPs holding constituency community meetings on the contentious sex-ed curriculum, which was rolled out in Ontario’s publicly funded schools September 2015, and that she was especially concerned the LGBTQ community was satisfied with the sex-ed television ads.
The sex-ed curriculum introduces homosexuality in Grade 3, masturbation in Grade 6, oral and anal sex in Grade 7, and teaches that there are six genders rather than two biological sexes, according to a detailed analysis by Campaign Life Coalition.
The Liberals had already spent $1.8 million for sex-ed radio ads in May 2015, so adding $4 million for the online and TV campaign, and the HST, brings the total the Liberals spent to ease public concerns about the sex-ed curriculum to $6.5 million.
In comparison, the Liberals spent $2.5 million on its 2010 all-day kindergarten ad campaign, and $1.56 million on a 2010 child care ad campaign (before HST), according to a June 2, 2015 internal email from Ministry of Education communications advisor Gary Wheeler.
The emails reveal strategizing between the offices of Premier Kathleen Wynne, minister Sandals, and the ministry of education to manage controversy surrounding the sex-ed curriculum. That included not publicizing the cost of the campaign, even when Globe and Mail reporter Jane Taber emailed August 31 to double-check.
“No price tag?” she writes. “The Campaign Life guys are accusing the government of using taxpayers’ money on an issue that so many disagree with. So I wanted to get a cost.”
“We don’t usually share the ad buy cost,” Rebecca MacKenzie, Wynne’s communications director, had noted in an internal email earlier that day.
“I think we maintain the same message and not get into the cost,” Bill Killorn, Wynne’s director of issues management wrote to Alessandra Fusco, Sandals’ press secretary and issues manager, and MacKenzie in response to Taber’s question.
“But we should maybe add how many different groups fed into the curriculum and are supportive of it to speak to the ‘so many people disagree with line’,” he added.
The result from Fusco is a paragraph emphasizing the number of groups consulted on the sex-ed curriculum, such as, “parents teachers, students, the police, Children’s Aid Societies, the Centre for Mental Health and others.
The Liberals shelled out $41,810 to the Toronto-based market research firm The Strategic Counsel for “opinion research” – six focus groups in June at the cost of $30,510 and four “mini groups” in August, at the cost of $11,300.
Evidently it paid off, as noted in a July 13, 2015 email from the marketing director for the premier’s office. “Focus groups are really positive about the ad campaign,” writes Ann Byberg to Sandals communication advisor Mora Carruthers, Logan Byberg, and Lauren Tedesco, Sandals’ director of communication. “The scenarios are making people more comfy with curriculum. The chart shown which age/grade is taught what is a big, big converter of people – once they see it, even people who are quite concerned are much more positive after reading it.”
According to a memo dated July 8, 2015 from deputy minister of education George Zegarac, the government budgeted $60,000 for market research; $3,000,000 for fees to Toronto-based media agency PHD Canada, and $990,000 for Toronto advertising agency Grey Canada for the online and television ad campaign.
The original June 15 estimate of $750,000 for television ads in suggested languages of Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu was increased to $990,000 “to provide for the development and execution of additional elements to support ethnic communities,” notes a July 8 amendment letter to Grey Canada from the ministry’s Murray Leaning.
Sandals also clamped down on MPPs holding constituency community meetings on sex-ed. Andre Ghione, communications director of the Liberal Caucus Service Bureau (LCSB) stated in a May 26 email to the caucus that sex-ed ads should be placed through the LCSB. Newspaper ads could include the local MPPs photo, contact info, “as well as any details about community meetings.”
“Why are we sending out templates that still suggest community meetings are a good idea?” Sandals asked in a May 26 email.
“We had reviewed this last week with the minister,” Tedesco wrote to Katie Williams, Sandals’s policy advisor, and Carruthers, “and she specifically requested that the community meetings be removed from the MPP templates.”
Sandals was also particularly sensitive to the LGBTQ community’s response to the ads. “Has there been any modification to the voice over to address [name redacted]’s concerns?” she asks Tedesco and others on August 28.
“They showed the ad to those in the LGBQT community here at Queen’s Park to see if anyone had the same concerns – they did not,” writes back Tedesco. “With the ad buy already purchased, and the AG’s approval, they won’t be able to tweak the ad until later, and will only do so if we get pushback from the community.”
“Ok,” Sandals responds. “Just as long as we have vetted the ad with others in the LGBTQ community.”
A longer version of this article originally appeared Feb. 10 at LifeSiteNews.com and is used with permission.