POLITICS

Manitoba government spent $1 million last year on Steady Growth ads and signs

06/15/2015 05:10 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government spent almost $1 million in the last fiscal year on signs and advertisements promoting its Steady Growth, Goods Jobs campaign.

The NDP government spent $665,474 on radio, TV, newspaper and online advertisements in the fiscal year that ended March 31, show documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the province's freedom-of-information law.

Another $327,261 was spent installing and maintaining signs at road construction sites, public housing renovations and other locations where infrastructure work occurred.

The money does not include ads for other government initiatives such as the provincial budget. It is only for the Steady Growth campaign that the Opposition has criticized as taxpayer-funded propaganda.

The government said the ads are necessary and has compared them to federal "Canada's Economic Action Plan" promotions.

"We are running a public awareness campaign to show Manitobans how their tax dollars are being invested to build and repair roads, bridges and other major projects throughout the province," Rachel Morgan, press secretary for Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, wrote in an email Monday.

The Steady Growth campaign began after the government raised the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven in 2013. Initially, the government said the money would be used for a variety of measures, including the preservation of front-line services.

But after months of public backlash, the government refocused its messaging, and said all the money from the sales tax increase would be used for core infrastructure work — roads, bridges, flood-fighting measures and public housing.

Hundreds of signs have sprouted up across the province. They are mostly green with the Steady Growth, Good Jobs slogan in large white letters. In smaller font is a general description of the work being done — such as "residential street renewal" — but with no details or dollar amounts.

The Infrastructure and Transportation Department alone had 100 signs erected last year. The Municipal Government Department set up 535 signs. The Health, Education and Housing departments put up smaller numbers.

The government has a policy that allows the signs to be erected at construction sites long before work begins and, in cases where the work lasts more than one year, to be left up over the winter lull.