Federal government's ad spending growing
Compared to the typical highly hyped Super Bowl television commercials, these didn't feature the same degree of entertainment value or creativity. In fact, critics are questioning the need for them at all.
Viewers of Sunday's Super Bowl game probably saw the commercials touting the federal government's Economic Action Plan. If nothing else, it gave Canadians a sampling of what they're getting for the $16 million in action plan advertising spending the Treasury Board approved last spring.
But Mathieu Ravignat, the NDP's Treasury Board critic, sees the action plan ad spending as a waste of taxpayers' money. In a Canadian Press story in Tuesday's Herald, Ravignat said such advertising is acceptable to inform the public about changes to programs or services, "but that's clearly not what's going on."
Research by the Canadian Press found that average annual spending by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has increased 72 per cent in four years since the economic downturn in 2008, compared to the five preceding years.
During the same period, federal Finance Department advertising expenditures climbed by 58 per cent and Canada Revenue Agency ad spending had nearly tripled. Ravignat called the spending increase on advertising "inappropriate" and "not very respectful to taxpayers' money."
The action plan ads which appeared during the Super Bowl did provide some information regarding ongoing skills training, and were certainly timed to capture a sizable audience. But it could be debated how much benefit Canadians derived from the commercials that many might see as pure self-promotion by the federal government.
Critics like Ravignat have complained for some time about the Harper government's use of these advertising dollars for partisan gain by patting themselves on the back for their handling of the economy. If that's the intent, a new poll suggests the Tories aren't gaining much from it. A recent Harris-Decima phone survey found that just seven per cent of respondents felt the federal government was doing an excellent job with the economy and another 30 per cent thought they were doing a good job. Forty-three per cent gave the Conservatives only a "fair" grade while 17 per cent indicated the government was doing a poor job.
If you're one of the people who has been struggling to make ends meet in recent years, it might seem like a slap in the face to see advertising trumpeting how the Canadian economic picture is so rosy thanks to the federal government. Canadians in that situation might not feel such advertising money was well spent.
Besides the $16 million earmarked for economic action plan advertising in the first quarter of 2012, the federal government also budgeted $8 million to sell Canadians on the plan to delay the Old Age Security eligibility age, $5 million to promote a scaled-back and restructured environmental assessment system, and another $5 million on a "better jobs" advertising campaign.
As of late 2012, the feds were on track to match the $83.3 million spent on advertising in 2010-11, which more than doubles the $41.3 million advertising budget the Conservative government inherited from the former Liberal government in 2006.
Money well spent? Taxpayers might beg to differ.
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