Ontario Tories defend use of Russian images in campaign TV ad

Reports say b-roll was shot in Russia and sourced from a stock footage agency

TORONTO – The use of images from Russia in an election TV ad promoting job creation in Ontario is simply the nature of the modern advertising beast, the Progressive Conservatives said Tuesday.

While Tory Leader Tim Hudak did not immediately comment, a party spokesman said he had no idea where the footage came from but defended the commercial as current practice.

“This is the way advertising works in the 21st century: You buy stock footage from a website, you get what you need, put it into your ad — whether it’s video or photos — and you pump it out,” said Will Stewart, the party’s media director.

“It’s the way it works in a web-based, technology-based world.”

Part of the TV spot — called “Ontario Working Better” — features Hudak himself touting his job-creation plan over video of office workers at a computer screen.

Another shot shows teens reading in a classroom.

Both sets of images, according to the Ottawa Citizen, are sourced from a stock footage agency and come from Russia.

Stewart accused the Liberals of playing “gotcha” politics by planting the story.

“We prefer to be talking about jobs,” Stewart said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she had not seen the commercial and refused to discuss it.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne did not immediately comment either but a party spokesperson called the Tories’ claim “baseless and totally false.”

Wynne spent part of her campaign morning touting her support for public transit, and denying Horwath’s claim that she was bent on privatizing Toronto’s transit system.

“People want more public transit,” Wynne said.

“They want to have more frequent public transit that they can rely on and that’s why we’re doing this.”

Wynne pointed to her experience in The Netherlands, which has a phenomenal, well-used public transit system — although she did not mention that it is expensive and large parts of it have been privatized in recent years.

Hudak, who is promising to create one million jobs if he can topple the minority Liberal government in the June 12 election, said Wynne “lacks the discipline” needed to focus on jobs.

“I’ve got a clear plan: affordable energy, lower taxes, less government debt (and) a greater emphasis on the skilled trades so we can rebuild the backbone of our middle class when it comes to industry,” Hudak said.

Horwath, whose campaign has struggled to launch effectively since Wynne pulled the plug on the legislature on Friday, pushed a plan to hike the minimum wage to $12 an hour from the $11 it will become June 1.

“We will gradually increase that minimum wage by 50 cents over the next two years and also reduce the small business tax at the same time to try to create a little bit of relief for small businesses who are often the ones who pay minimum wage who have a difficult time making ends meet,” Horwath said.

The campaign starts officially on Wednesday when the writ is issued, although the leaders have been campaigning since Friday when Wynne called an election after the New Democrats said they would not support the Liberals’ budget.

_ With files from Maria Babbage, Keith Leslie and Diana Mehta.