It’s time for the city to re-think fossil fuel advertising

By Shawn Menard


If the city really wants to get serious about its commitment to fighting climate change, that determination should be reflected in our advertising and sponsorship policies. That’s why at the Finance and Corporate Services Committee meeting on March 20, my team brought forward a motion to review a change to the updated Advertising Using City Assets and Programs Policy that would examine options to end fossil fuel advocacy advertising. This motion stemmed from some questionable advertising that has occurred at city facilities recently.

In 2023, we saw Enbridge at Lansdowne Park for Winterlude – in a winter when it was too warm to skate on the canal. This year, we were alerted by various residents, including former Capital Ward Councillor David Chernushenko, to fossil fuel advertising at Brewer Arena.

As the residents rightfully pointed out, ads like the ones at Brewer are misleading and inappropriate, considering the city’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

We’re seeing ads from pro-fossil fuel-burning advocates (often dressed up as some type of environmental organization), ad campaigns seeking to undo good work, ad campaigns intended to accelerate the degradation of our environment.

In 2019, a motion our team put forward had the city declare a climate emergency. It passed with overwhelming support at council and put a stronger voice to the calls of residents to have the city take better care of our environment.

Following this declaration, we were able to take greater steps towards environmental sustainability—empowering the climate change team at the city, more building retrofits saving us money and lowering emissions and beginning the transition to a full fleet of electric buses at OC Transpo.

This term, as chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee, I continue this fight for improved environmental protections and measures to reduce the city’s contribution to climate change. As extreme weather batters our city, affecting the lives and homes of residents and taking a toll on city finances, the city must redouble its efforts to be better prepared for what faces us.

These advertisements are working directly at odds with city policy and goals. According to the updated advertising policy, all advertising must not affect the quality and integrity of the city’s properties or programs. It is wholly inappropriate for the city to be displaying ads that are subverting all the work the city and its residents are trying to do to combat climate change and mitigate its effects.

If the ads were a real cash cow for the city, the temptation to run them would be understandable (though still not justifiable). However, these ads do not comprise a significant source of revenue. In 2023, they brought in just $5,459 at arenas, which forms just two per cent of advertising revenue and 0.0078 per cent of overall revenue for the Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services Department. It would cost the city little to change advertising policy and do outreach to regain these funds from heat pump technology advertising. The issue seems to be one of a legal right to advertise, but that hasn’t stopped the city from stopping advertising for guns, cigarettes and pornography.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has a national campaign on this issue centered on the health implications of air pollution and climate change. Ecology Ottawa also took the lead on a letter to the mayor signed by 15 organizations calling for a ban on fossil-fuel advertising at city facilities.

There were many compelling delegations at committee in favour of a review or a full ad ban for fossil fuels, and I thank everyone who came out to speak, who wrote to councillors and the mayor and who gave of their time and energy to help fix this hole in city policy.

This issue is low-hanging fruit. It’s a quick and easy policy improvement the city could make that would cost us almost nothing. Granted, eliminating these ads won’t solve climate change; but if we can’t trust the city to make the quick-and-easy changes, then how can we trust them to be stewards of the city’s stated environmental policy?

Ultimately, the motion was passed unanimously and will go to Council in April for a final vote.


Shawn Menard is City Councillor for Capital Ward. He can be reached at

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