Former Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has added his voice to growing pressure on Canada's broadcast regulator to reverse a decision banning the substitution of Canadian ads over big-budget American spots during the Super Bowl.
In a letter to Canada's ambassador in Washington, Rubio and fellow Republican Sen. Ron Johnson warn that the policy undermines the business relationship between the National Football League and its Canadian broadcast partner and could undermine Canada-U.S. relations.
The policy "sends a troubling signal about the value Canada places on its largest trading partner, best customer and close friend," Rubio and Johnson wrote in the letter to ambassador David MacNaughton, dated Dec. 20.
"For these reasons, we hope that upon review of the harmful precedence this order will set, Canada will reverse this policy."
In 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission barred the airing of Canadian ads in place of flashy American commercials, in response to complaints from Canadian viewers. The decision only took effect for the 2017 game.
The NFL, which sold the Canadian rights to the game, and CTV, which bought them and recoups the cost by selling domestic ads, vigorously opposed the move.
Bell Media, which owns CTV, lost a legal battle with the CRTC in September when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an application to overturn the policy.
ACTRA, Canada's English-language performers' union, also launched an online letter-writing campaign Wednesday, encouraging its 23,000 members to contact their members of Parliament in opposition to the policy.
"Most Canadians don't know that the Canadian ads they see during the Super Bowl mean work opportunities for Canadian performers. But they do," said Stephen Waddell, the organization's executive director.
"The CRTC decision is incredibly short-sighted, reckless, and it puts creative sector jobs at risk."
The policy has also been opposed by U.S. federal commerce officials and Canadian advertisers, who say the snap decision is costing them money on their biggest day of the year.
The decision barred simultaneous substitution of Canadian commercials during the Super Bowl, but not for broadcasts of other sporting events. At the time, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said the move was aimed at "empowering Canadians."
"If (consumers) want to watch the signal that's available in their area and see the U.S. ads, that's their choice," he said.
"If they want to see the Canadian version with the Tim Hortons ad . . . they can look at that."
But opponents, including Liberal MPs Bob Nault and Wayne Easter, who wrote letters to several policy-makers this week, say the decision is costing the Canadian economy tens of millions of dollars and want it reversed before the Feb. 5 game.