The Link that Disappeared: Netiquette for the 2014 Ontario Election

Now that the writ for the June12 general election has been signed, I checked the Ontario Government ( and Ontario Legislature home pages. The Ontario home page previously had a highly-visible link to the Premier’s site, with a picture of the premier herself. That link has been removed.

The Premier’s website still exists. Its top news story is an announcement that the election has been called. I assume that this will be the latest news story for the next few weeks, and the website will now be frozen.

The Legislature home page has a simple announcement that the Legislature has been dissolved.

It seems to me this practice is appropriate. Keeping a link to the Premier’s website on the Ontario home page would give her an unfair advantage. While an argument might be made that the Premier’s website should have gone completely dark, with only an announcement of the election, a stronger counter-argument would be that the Premier’s website is a record of her activities as premier, which should remain available to all during an election campaign.

Right now, we can only wonder whether the hyper-partisan Harper Government will follow similar practice in next year’s election.



  1. I would agree that what you describe is appropriate, including freezing but not closing the Premier’s site. The government is in caretaker mode and public resources shouldn’t be used to support the campaign. On the other hand what has been done in the past using public money should be visible as part of the electoral accountability process. In that respect, what is being done on the web should be parallelled by self-restraint in other potential calls on public service and Appropriations-financed resources.

    My sense of the gas plants episode in the last election is that the Ontario government doesn’t draw a line as clearly between departmental and political space as does the federal government. I am referring to the federal exempt staff/departmental (and PMO/PCO) demarcation, which is also used to cordon off private and political ministerial papers that aren’t subject to ATIP or to the convention on the custody of Cabinet papers of an outgoing government, in the eventuality of a change of government. If those boundaries aren’t clear and understood then you get confusion about what can be kept or left or destroyed. I have a feeling that the groundrules aren’t a lot clearer for the next Ontario transition than they were for the last, although they will be even more important if they involve a change of government.

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