Conservatives Underestimate Government Advertising Costs by 37 per Cent

By Cheadle, Bruce | The Canadian Press, October 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Conservatives Underestimate Government Advertising Costs by 37 per Cent


Cheadle, Bruce, The Canadian Press


Tories underestimate ad costs by 37 per cent

--

OTTAWA - The Harper government is being transparent with its advertising expenses because cabinet approvals of advertising budgets are posted quarterly, a spokesman for federal Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said Thursday.

But an examination of the Conservative government's first five years in office shows it overshot those cabinet-approved ad budgets by $128 million -- more than 37 per cent.

Conservatives are under fire for their current, gauzy "economic action plan" media blitz, part of a $16-million campaign that is saturating Canadian airwaves this autumn.

NDP finance critic Peggy Nash questioned why taxpayers' dollars are being spent in a time of restraint on a budgetary concept first introduced to Canadians almost four years ago.

"The 'economic action plan' is already completed," Nash said.

"So we have to wonder why they're advertising now on a program that's already finished -- during a budget period that is based on austerity and cutting back programs and services for Canadians."

Indeed, the March 2012 budget included a chapter entitled: "The stimulus phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan: A final report to Canadians."

But the massive, taxpayer-funded branding exercise for the "economic action plan" title -- first introduced in the recession-fuelled stimulus budget of January 2009 -- may have proved too successful for the Conservative government to abandon.

In a time of across-the-board budget cuts, the Harper cabinet has approved more than $64 million in ad spending this year, Treasury Board documents show.

That's up from just under $53 million approved in the 2011-12 fiscal year -- although the actual dollars spent last year won't be available until the annual report on government advertising is released at some future date.

"The Government of Canada makes advertising expenses public through quarterly reports which are posted on the Treasury Board Secretariat website," Michael Bolkenius, a spokesman for Ambrose, said in an email Thursday.

Indeed, Treasury Board does post quarterly approvals -- but comparing them to the true spending totals later revealed in the annual reports makes for interesting reading. …

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