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Groups call on city of Ottawa to ban fossil fuel ads on city property

Community groups are calling on the city of Ottawa to ban fossil fuel ads on city property and at local facilities, as a committee prepares to review the city’s corporate sponsorship and advertising policies.

A group of 15 community groups and organizations have written a letter to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and council, urging the city to prohibit the advertisement and promotion of fossil fuels and sponsorship by fossil-fuel companies in city facilities.

“Fossil fuel advertisements and sponsorship enact environmental and human harm by increasing demand and goodwill for carbon-intensive goods and services and spread misinformation about their deleterious effects,” the letter says.

“Ottawans have felt the effects of climate change in recent years, including through tornadoes, flooding, wildfire smoke, and a derecho.”

The letter adds, “City Council needs to align our City’s advertising and sponsorship policies with its vision, mission, and values, particularly its commitments to combatting climate change and protecting Ottawans’ health.”

Horizon Ottawa posted a photo on social media of ads for oil and natural gas on OC Transpo buses. The groups note Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, signed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2022, and has committed to being net-zero by 2050.

The city of Ottawa’s advertising policy states all advertising must comply with the standards of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

The letter is signed by several groups, including Ecology Ottawa, Horizon Ottawa, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and For Our Kids Ottawa/Gatineau.

Ottawa’s finance and corporate services committee will update the city’s Corporate Sponsorship and Advertising Policies during Tuesday’s meeting, the first time the policy has been updated since it was enacted in 2005. The policy looks at sponsorship and advertising agreements for program and special events, the sale of naming rights for city properties, buildings and structures and static and digital advertising on city property and at city events .

Staff are recommending the city separate the current joint policy into two separate policies: a Sponsorship Policy and an Advertising Using City Assets and Programs Policy.  The new advertising policy will cover digital and social media.

The report also recommends the general managers and the City Manager’s delegated authority to approve sponsorship, naming rights and advertising committees be increased, with the City Manager authorized to approve agreements extending beyond 10 years and/or exceed $3 million.

In 2022, the city collected $4.339 million in cash value and $1.4 million of value in kind through sponsorships, according to the city.

“While the total revenue generated from these sponsorship agreements is relatively small compared to the City’s operating budget, it represents a consistent source of revenue and can help enhance the resident experience while raising the City’s inclusive and affordable brand profile within the community,” the report says.

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