OTTAWA — Stephen Harper’s Conservative government spent $750 million of taxpayers’ money on government advertising since 2006, and the Liberal party wants to remind you of it.
In a television spot that will run during game five of the Montreal Canadiens–Ottawa Senators Stanley Cup playoff series Friday evening, the Grits take aim at Tory spending on “Economic Action Plan” ads – the type of ads that are about to bombard Canadian TV viewers with the promises of the Conservatives’ budget.
The $750 million quoted by the Liberals covers all government advertising in the past eight years, including controversial ads and non-controversial ones like public service announcements on elder abuse, for example.
“Enjoying the playoffs?" the voiceless Liberal ad states with an economic action plan sign in the background.
“Enjoying all the government ads?
“After all, you’re paying for them.
“In fact, in the past nine years, you taxpayers…
“...Have paid over 750 hundred million dollars for our ads.
“Three quarters of a billion dollars!”
The carnival music continues, but the shots of economic action plan billboards and online ads end, and we see an old picture of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper looking mighty pleased with himself.
“Thanks, eh?” the prime minister seems to be saying in the ad.
“You people are the best.“
The Liberals said people are angry about what they view as wasteful government spending, and they wanted to remind Canadians how much the Tories have spent since 2006.
“After 10 years, Stephen Harper thinks he owns the government — he doesn’t. The people of Canada do,” Liberal party spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said.
The party would not disclose how much they are spending on the limited Stanley Cup playoff ad buy.
The Conservative government defended the spending.
“Advertising is a key way for the government to inform Canadians about important issues such as tax credits and public health issues," said Stephanie Rea, spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
“Between 2002 and 2006 the previous Liberal Government spent $270.6 million dollars on advertising," she said, noting the government didn't track ad spending before then.
The Conservatives have been heavily criticized for using public money to fund ads touting their government — whether on their budget plan, veteran services, attacks against the cellphone companies, and the negative effects of marijuana.
CTV reported a few weeks ago that the Conservatives planned to spend $7.5 million to promote the budget tabled Tuesday.
Last year, the government spent more than $7 million on a 10-week, anti-drug advertising campaign. The Canadian Press reported that was more than half of what Health Canada had spent the previous year advertising all its programs and services.
The government is also fond of using the Stanley Cup playoffs and other expensive television events, such as the Oscars, to advertise to Canadians.
Last year, a 30-second ad from Veterans Affairs ran 33 times during the NHL playoffs, the Ottawa Citizen reported. In 2013, the government paid for more than 200 ads that ran during the playoffs, the newspaper said.
More than $1 million was spent on ads promoting a job grants program that did not exist. Those ads, deemed misleading by the industry regulator, drew a caution for the Tories. The campaign, aimed at younger men, was later deemed a flop after the vast majority of respondents in a survey didn’t remember seeing them.
A CBC story said the cost of each 30-second spot of advertising during the 2013 NHL playoffs was worth up to $95,000.
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