The Conservative government wants Canadians to know how good a job it’s doing, running our federal institutions.
It’s apparently so very important that the Tories make Canadians aware of that fact, that the government has approved tens of millions of dollars in “economic action plan” ads this year to do so.
This, even as our ministers direct cuts to several programs in scientific research, our national parks and environmental monitoring.
As The Canadian Press reported this week, a Treasury Board document shows cabinet approved $16 million in “economic action plan” advertising in the first quarter of this year alone.
This does not include $5 million for a “better jobs” ad campaign, $8 million to sell Canadians on cuts to old age security and $5 million to promote “responsible resource development” — the slogan given to an environmental assessment system that was cut last spring in the omnibus budget bill.
The Conservatives also approved $4.5 million for War of 1812 advertising this year — funds that would have been better spent on educational material for students if the intent was to properly honour the anniversary.
In fact, thus far for 2012-13, the federal cabinet has already approved more than $64 million in ad spending — and the year’s not done yet.
We note that federal advertising dollars have grown exponentially under the Tories. In the previous fiscal year, the Conservatives approved more than $83 million for government advertising. And in 2009-10, the federal advertising budget hit $136.3 million. Of that last number, $53.2 million was earmarked for advertising the Economic Action Plan and about $24 million to warn Canadians about the H1N1 flu pandemic.
Contrast those numbers with the federal advertising budget for 2006 of $41.3 million — the same year Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came into power.
Remarkably, the same Tories who rightly pilloried the former Liberal government of Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien for the AdScam debacle — investigation of which found misuse and misdirection of public funds for government advertising in Quebec — are abusing the public purse to advertise their apparent achievements, at the expense of more important programs.
For example, according to a Winnipeg Free Press article published earlier this year, Parks Canada’s own reviews suggest that for every dollar of government money invested in parks, $5 is generated toward the gross domestic product, including tourism and taxes. In 2009, Canada’s 14 park agencies spent $800 million, and generated $4.6 billion in economic activity, supporting the equivalent of 64,000 full-time jobs.
Last April, the feds cut $29.2 million to Parks Canada’s annual budget. As a result, winter trail maintenance to Riding Mountain National Park’s recreational trails was eliminated.
If Parks Canada’s tourism dollars are so lucrative, why not cut the advertising spending budget and restore the parks budget?
The federal government has also axed globally recognized programs such as the Experimental Lakes Area — a powerful tool for freshwater scientists — just to save a measly $2 million. And to save $5.5 million, the Conservatives have cut the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a program that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird openly admitted his government would be happy to see close up shop, as it has often proposed what hardline Tories love to hate — a carbon tax.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office has defended the increased advertising budget, saying it’s important that Canadians are aware of government initiatives to support the economy “in an uncertain global economy.”
This kind of budget spending goes well beyond the necessary advertising duties for the Government of Canada.
Cut the advertising budget and restore other programs instead. We’d rather go cross-country skiing instead of watch your ads.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 12, 2012