Harper government spending $9 million on wireless industry advertising: report

More Choices campaign

The so-called fiscally conservative Tories are certainly not living up to their moniker when it comes to government advertising.

Last summer, you'll recall the big three Canadian wireless carriers — Bell, Telus and Rogers — launched an ad campaign against the government to fight the liberalization of new wireless rules which would have allowed U.S. telecom giant Verizon to enter the Canadian market.

The federal government fought back with a campaign of their own, which — according to a CBC News source — is costing Canadian taxpayers $9 million; $2.6 million is for television commercials while the rest is being spent on radio and newspaper ads, as well as a website.

[ Related: Harper government, telcos trade barbs over Verizon's possible entry into Canada ]

Jake Enwright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore, told CBC the ads are necessary to tell Canadians about the government's wireless policy.

"Our government has an obligation to ensure the facts about our wireless policy are communicated to Canadians. These ads provide those facts," Enwright said in an email.

"Our policy to increase competition in the wireless sector is providing Canadians with more choices and access to the latest technology at lower prices."

That's one expensive communications strategy.

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If you're keeping score at home, here's what the feds have recently spent on suspect advertising.

  • Economic Action Plan ads: $113 million since 2009
  • War of 1812 ads: $4.5 million
  • Canada Job Grant ads: ??? (prime time ads for a program that didn't even exist)

Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says he's surprised that the government would even launch such a campaign in the first place.

"The Harper government wants to eliminate the deficit and balance the budget, but then they spend $9 million on ads attacking the wireless industry, millions more promoting the non-existent Canada Jobs Grant during the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring, and millions more promoting the so-called Economic Action Plan," Thomas told Yahoo Canada News.

"It’s unconscionable that the Harper government would use taxpayer dollars to attack taxpaying businesses – it would be just as bad if they were targeting unions or religious groups – with their own tax dollars.

"Ontario Liberal MP David McGuinty is on the right track with the private member’s bill he introduced in November – it’s modeled on Ontario’s approach, where the Auditor General, an independent officer of parliament, must review and approve all government advertising."

The wireless ads, CBC notes, will run until December 22.

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