Government advertising expense skyrockets under Conservatives: NDP

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Is government advertising an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars?

NDP MP Charlie Angus is accusing the Harper government of using government advertising for partisan purposes.

In a press release distributed Thursday, the Ontario MP cites a new report which shows government-wide spending on advertising more than tripled since the Conservatives first won power, growing to $136.3-million in 2009-10 from $41.3-million in 2005-06.

"This was about buying the voter's support in the lead up to an election. Mr. Harper used to rail against the Liberals for abusing advertising budgets," Angus said adding key "ethnic" media publications in suburban ridings also saw a dramatic increase.

"They had nothing on the antics of the Harper gang. He seems to think that taxpayer's money belongs to the Conservative party.

"Who knows, maybe we need to put Mr. Harper under Third Party management until we can get a clearer picture on why he is so cavalier with taxpayer's money."

Angus' analysis, however, may be a little misleading.

According to data compiled by the Globe and Mail, the Liberals had actually spent $111 million on advertising in fiscal year 2002/03.

Moreover, before 2009/10 the Conservatives hadn't spent more than $87 million a year on advertising.

And, according to the government, 2010 had some extenuating circumstances  such as the H1N1 virus and the world wide recession which required a government sponsored stimulus program.

"It is the responsibility of the government to communicate important programs and services to Canadians. Advertising is a key way for the government to inform Canadians about important issues such as time-limited stimulus measures, tax credits and public health issues," Michelle Bakos, Director of Communications for Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, told Yahoo! Canada News in an email.

"When excluding extraordinary initiatives such as the Economic Action Plan and H1N1 preparedness, advertising expenses for 2009-2010 were well below the last full recorded year under the former Liberal government ($111 million)."