Let's go back to May 21, 2002.

The Canadian Alliance had recently chosen former Reform MP and National Citizen Coalition president Stephen Harper as its leader.

And on his first day as Opposition leader, with the sponsorship scandal beginning to emerge as a problem for Jean Chretien's Liberals, young Harper led off question period by calling out the government for what he saw as careless advertising spending.

"Given the growing evidence of widespread waste and mismanagement of government advertising business and the fact that the government's incompetent handling of its advertising and sponsorship is already under review, will the prime minister stop the waste and abuse right now and order a freeze of all discretionary government advertising?" he asked.

Now, some 12 years later, one has to wonder what Opposition leader Stephen Harper would say about the fact that, as prime minister, he would go on to spend millions of taxpayer dollars advertising a program that doesn't even exist yet.

And that his Conservative government would actually drop more money on ads than Chretien's Liberals.

CBC News reported Monday that Ottawa spent more than $2.5 million in a publicity blitz for the Canada Jobs Grant — a controversial program announced in the 2013 budget which has been put on hold and largely panned by the provinces and territories.

The proposed program would provide a grant of $15,000 to workers for skills training, with the federal government, provinces or territories and employers each kicking in $5,000.

Yet, the provinces and territories maintain it won't give them enough flexibility to direct the funds where they are needed most and could jeopardize existing provincially run programs that help disadvantaged groups.

They say they'd have to come up with more than $600 million to maintain their current programs as well as match the cost of the Canada Job Grant.

As a result, the program may never come to fruition unless some kind of compromise is reached.

But that didn't stop Conservatives from rolling out pricey ads touting the merits of the non-existent program during the NHL playoffs last May. Commercials on Hockey Night in Canada can reportedly cost up to $95,000 per 30-second spot.

According to the National Post, Advertising Standards Canada received 20 consumer complaints over the ad embedded below and, after a review, declared it was indeed "misleading" and breached the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards by omitting "relevant information."

To make matters worse, it appears the ads flopped anyway.

Postmedia's Tobi Cohen wrote Monday that, according to a public opinion survey conducted over the summer, eighty-five per cent of Canadian participants couldn't recall seeing the Jobs Grant ads that ran for seven weeks in the spring.

So, in summation, more than $2.5 million of taxpayer money was spent on advertising which touted a program that doesn't exist and fell on deaf ears.

Of course, the Conservative government has also been roundly criticized for spending more than $100 million on Economic Action Plan ads since 2009 that have been criticized as "thinly disguised Conservative propaganda."

But Tories have defended their advertising as necessary to keep Canadians informed about relevant programs and services.

Even if that means spending more than Chretien's Liberals.

According to CBC News, Harper's government spent more than $136 million on advertising in 2009-2010, while at its peak, the Liberal government dropped $111 million on ads in 2002-2003.

And it appears the prime minister's change of heart regarding government advertising isn't sitting well with Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Thomas wrote in December that Harper was actually right on his first day on the job when he took a stand against wasteful ad spending.

"Stephen Harper would do well to pull up a video recording of that first question period exchange and listen to the young man confronting the Prime Minister," he wrote. "He was right then, and those who think this advertising is a waste, are right now."

With files from The Canadian Press

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  • 2002

    Stephen Harper looks over at his son and daughter Benjamin and Rachel while his mother Margaret and wife Laureen look on after he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament during a ceremony in Ottawa on May 21, 2002.

  • 2003

    Stephen Harper along with his wife Laureen, daughter Rachel and son Ben stand together in Ottawa on December 5, 2003.

  • 2004

    Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up with his daughter Rachel before boarding the campaign bus in Ottawa on May 23, 2004.

  • 2004

    Stephen Harper arrives with his family to inspect his campaign bus in Ottawa on May 20, 2004.

  • 2004

    Stephen Harper sits behind the wheel of a campaign bus as his daughter Rachel waves in Edmonton on June 27, 2004.

  • 2005

    Stephen Harper ties his son Ben's skates as daughter Rachel looks on at a hockey arena in Ottawa on December 18, 2005.

  • 2005

    Stephen Harperarrives with his children for a pancake breakfast in Calgary On July 12, 2005.

  • 2006

    Rachel Harper, daughter of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, yawns during a ceremony to swear in the new Conservative government cabinet at Rideau Hall February 6, 2006 in Ottawa.

  • 2006

    Stephen Harper arrives in Ottawa on 24 January, 2006 with his wife Laureen, son Ben and daughter Rachel, one day after winning the general election.

  • 2006

    Stephen Harper, wife Laureen, and children Benjamin and Rachel celebrate his election victory in Calgary on January 23, 2006.

  • 2006

    Stephen Harper's official 2006 Christmas card showing Harper with his wife Laureen and children Ben and Rachel sitting in front of a fireplace at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

  • 2007

    Stephen Harper and his son Ben drink a sip of water, as his daughter Rachel looks on, as they attend a BBQ dinner on August 1, 2007, part of a three-day party caucus.

  • 2006

    Stephen Harper gets a sticker from son Ben and daughter Rachel after he participated in a fire scenario at the Toronto Fire Department Training Centre in Toronto on August 25, 2006.

  • 2006

    Rachel Harper pets Fozzie at the Ottawa Humane Society while Laureen Harper looks on after launching the 18th annual IAMS Wiggle Waggle Walkathon on August 17, 2006 in Ottawa

  • 2007

    Stephen Harper, flanked by his wife Laureen and his children, waves to the crowd during ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 2007 in Vimy, Northern France.Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2007

    Stephen Harper kicks his foot up in a little dance with Bonhomme Carnaval along with his son Ben and daughter Rachel at the official opening of the Quebec Carnival on January 26, 2007 in Quebec.

  • 2008

    Stephen Harper consults with his son Benjamin as he casts his ballot in the Canadian federal election, October 14, 2008 in Calgary.

  • 2008

    Stephen Harper reaches into a rain of confetti with his daughter Rachel at his side at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary following his election victory on October 14, 2008.

  • 2008

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his daughter Rachel press a button to activate lights across the country during the Christmas Lights Across Canada Illumination Ceremony on Parliament Hill on December 4, 2008 in Ottawa.

  • 2008

    Stephen Harper's 2008 Christmas card with a picture of his family, wife Laureen, son Ben and daughter Rachel.

  • 2009

    Stephen Harper and his children, Benjamin and Rachel, pose with Pope Benedict XVI on July 11, 2009 during a private audience at the Vatican.

  • 2009

    Stephen Harper leaves 24 Sussex with his daughter Rachel to be surprised by a flock of pink flamingos on the front lawn for his 50th birthday in Ottawa on April 30, 2009.

  • 2009

    Stephen Harper's 2009 Christmas card with a picture of his family, wife Laureen, son Ben and daughter Rachel.

  • 2010

    Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen and children Benjamin and Rachel, attend the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on February 12, 2010 in Vancouver.

  • 2010

    The 2012 Christmas card for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper features his family, daughter Rachel, son Ben and wife Laureen.

  • 2011

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his daughter Rachel and son Ben arrive arrive at a polling station on May 2, 2011 in Calgary.

  • 2011

    Stephen Harper celebrates his majority government win in the federal election with son Ben, wife Laureen and daughter Rachel, May 2, 2011 in Calgary.

  • 2011

    Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen, son Ben and daughter Rachel are featured on the Conservative leader's Christmas Card for 2011.

  • 2012

    Stephen Harper watches a third round match between Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic with his children Rachel and Benjamin at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament on September 1, 2012, in New York.

  • The 2012 Christmas card for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper features his family, daughter Rachel, son Ben and wife Laureen.