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Ottawa committee directs staff to examine options for fossil fuel advertising on municipal property

A city committee directed city of Ottawa staff to explore options around fossil fuel advertising on city property and at local facilities, as community groups’ call on the city to ban the ads immediately.

The finance and corporate services committee approved an update to the city’s Corporate Sponsorship and Advertising Policies on Tuesday, which covers sponsorship and advertising agreements for program and special events, the sale of naming rights for city properties and buildings, and on static and digital advertising on city property.

A group of 15 community groups and organizations urged the city to ban advertising and promotion of fossil fuels and sponsorship by fossil-fuel companies in city facilities.

The city of Ottawa has paid sponsorships of rink board advertisements in select arenas for the fossil fuel industry, and advertisements have appeared on OC Transpo buses and bus shelters, according to a councillor and the community groups.

William van Geest of Ecology Ottawa told the committee that “permitting such advertisements directly contradicts City Council’s values and commitments.”

 “Fossil fuel promotion has no place in our city.”

Dr. Eugenie Waters, a member of For Our Kids Ottawa-Gatineau, told councillors that “the climate crisis is a major health threat.”

“As a city, we need to tackle the climate emergency in a unified way. We really need the city, across all of its varied activities and departments, to row in the same direction. To do this, the city should not permit the advertising of fossil fuel companies.”

Ottawa’s current contracts for fossil fuel advertising on rink boards runs until November 2024 and the OC Transpo contract runs until June 8, according to a motion from Coun. Shawn Menard.

The city of Ottawa’s advertising policy states all advertising must comply with the standards of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, and the ads must clearly indicate that they are paid ads and who pays for them.

The committee approved a motion from Menard, directing staff to review a “change to the updated Advertising Using City Assets and Programs Policy that would examine options around fuel advocacy advertising.”

Staff will report back on options to the committee over the summer.

The motion also recommended that any future changes to fossil fuel advertising under the city’s policy be considered by Transit Services. Menard’s motion notes advertising programs for OC Transpo’s assets are formally exempt from the City’s Advertising Policy, “but are routinely reviewed by staff to align with the Recreation, Culture and Facility Services Policy and Best Practices.”

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