By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty arguing that Parliament needs a fully independent and better-funded parliamentary budget officer?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty saying that the government will spend the necessary funds to implement full estimates reform?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressing regret for the lack of disclosure that resulted in the government being found in contempt of Parliament two years ago?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty agreeing that government backbenchers need to be more independent so that they can properly hold the government to account?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pledging that comprehensive access to information reform will be a priority over the next two years?
Is that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining that the government will comply with the interim parliamentary budget officer’s request?
Nope. That’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty explaining why the Harper government spends money on ads like this.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 4:02 PM - 0 Comments
The latest annual report on advertising by the federal government has been posted here. In the fiscal year of 2011-2012, the Harper government spent $78.5 million on advertising, which is actually the lowest total since the Conservatives formed government. (See this post for more background.)
Last week, Glen McGregor reviewed a recent poll on attitudes toward the government’s advertising.
More than half of those surveyed this week reacted negatively to the ads, calling them either political advertising, a waste of taxpayers’ money, or “junk.” The interactive voice-response poll by Forum Research found that only about one respondent in ten thought the widely-broadcast ads were just part of normal government communications…
Respondents to the poll most often characterized the campaign as political advertising for the Conservative Party (30%), while 24 per cent called them “a waste of taxpayers’ money” and 12 per cent denounced them as “more commercial junk.”
But, be that as it may, there was also this bit dug up by the Canadian Press last month in a review of the government’s own polling on its advertising.
The internal Privy Council Office analysis of the April 2012 post-advertising survey may provide a clue to the Harper government’s continued use of EAP ads. The analysis, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, notes that among those who had not seen the ads, 42 per cent approved of the overall performance of the government. But the number rises to 47 per cent among those who had seen the TV spots, a five-percentage-point boost in popularity attributed to the advertising campaign.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM - 0 Comments
As noted yesterday, Tony Clement attempted to explain the government’s spending on advertising with an apparently flattering comparison.
“Last year, our advertising budget was $83.3 million, which is well below the last full year under the former Liberal government of $111 million.”
In citing “the last full year under the former Liberal government,” Mr. Clement is referring to the fiscal year of 2002-2003: all subsequent years are apparently disqualified because each included an interruption in advertising. Here is the relevant chart.
In 2009-2010, the Harper government spent $136 million on advertising. That included spending related to the H1N1 outbreak ($24 million) and spending related to the “economic action plan” ($53.2 million).
In 2010-2011, the Harper government spent $83.3 million. But the approved budget that year was apparently $65.4 million.
A preliminary estimate, tabled in response to an order paper question last month, pegged government advertising at $74.4 million for 2011-2012. (I presume that fiscal year will include an election-related suspension of some kind.)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 11:35 AM - 0 Comments
Bruce Cheadle provides another accounting of how much the Harper government has increased public spending on advertising to promote itself.
Meanwhile, NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat has filed the following order paper question.
With regards to advertising by the Government of Canada during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII on February 3, 2013: (a) what was the total cost for advertising; and (b) what was the cost for each advertisement shown?
The government has 45 days to respond.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
The British Columbia New Democrats are proposing new rules for government advertising.
Dix said if elected in the general election scheduled for May, the NDP would bring in legislation in the first session to prohibit government ads showing the name, voice or image of the premier or cabinet members. Modelled after what’s already in place in Ontario, the legislation would require the independent office of the auditor general to review and approve all government advertising.
“I think people ask the fair and legitimate question: How can you guarantee that?” Dix said at a news conference outside on the seawall to the north of Science World. “Here’s how we guarantee it: We intend to introduce legislation to ensure that every ad run by government — meaning television, radio, print, online — is reviewed by the auditor general to make sure it meets that standard of government advertising.” Dix said legislation would also prohibit all non-essential government advertising four months before a scheduled general election. “These rules …. would satisfy and demonstrate our seriousness in banning partisan advertising with public funds,” he said.
We noted the Ontario example in November. In the realm of democratic reform and accountability (and perhaps fiscal restraint), this strikes me as an easy proposal for an opposition party to make—is there really any argument to be made against submitting government advertising to these kind of restrictions?—at least so long as it was willing to limit itself once in government.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Hill Times tallies $8 million in spending on War of 1812 advertising.
The Canadian Heritage department was the biggest spender, paying $1.45-million to CTV for prime time space to broadcast one War of 1812 ad during the summer Olympic Games, with a further $1.2-million bill for the ad’s planning and production costs … The mint spent a total of $1.6-million on television ads alone, all centred around commercials for circulation of a $2 coin commemorating a British navy warship.
The total budget for War of 1812 celebrations was previously reported to be $28 million.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Harper government has committed another $4 million to advertise itself.
Supplementary estimates released by Ottawa midway through the fiscal year show the Natural Resources Department has been given an additional $4 million to fund an ad campaign called “Responsible Resource Development.”
That’s on top of $5 million the same department already had on the books for the ads, which pitch pipelines, double-hulled oil tankers and pro-development changes to environmental laws as part of the Conservatives’ ubiquitous “economic action plan.” The $9 million in ads by Natural Resources dovetails with $16 million budgeted for the current “economic action plan” blitz by Finance Canada and another $5 million for a job training ad campaign by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
The policy response to this might be something like what the Ontario government established.
Complaints about incumbent parties using publicly funded ads to bolster their re-election chances are, of course, nothing new. But Ontario remains the only Canadian jurisdiction—in fact, one of very few in the world—to seriously tackle the issue. In 2004, Ontario’s auditor general was given power to vet all provincial ads to make sure they don’t amount to pitches for the party in power. Last year, the watchdog’s ad panel (Rose is a member) approved all but two of 165 advertising submissions from provincial ministries.
But those rare rejections are intriguing. The panel wouldn’t allow a set of ads touting the province’s clean-energy policy, finding that their “primary objective was to foster a positive impression” of the governing Liberals. The reviewers also rescinded their approval of ads on reducing medical wait times after they saw that the provincial Liberals had produced a partisan ad “with strikingly similar visuals on the same subject.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 8:58 AM - 0 Comments
One thing not being promoted in those “Economic Action Plan” ads: the Harper government’s inability to stay within its advertising budget.
In 2010-11, the last full year for which final accounting is available, the Harper cabinet approved $65.4 million in spending, but the government ran up an advertising bill of $83.3 million. A year earlier, at the height of the economic crisis and during an influenza pandemic, the government approved $85.3 million in advertising but spent $136.3 million.
In fact, in every single year since the Conservatives took office, the government has exceeded its posted advertising budget by at least 25 per cent — the smallest overshoot being the extra $16.5 million Ottawa spent in 2008-09. That was also the year the Harper government posted its lowest overall ad spending to date, $79.5 million.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
While Finance officials are refusing to disclose the budget for the current blitz, contracts listed on the department’s website suggest the saturation ad campaign is costing taxpayers about $14 million. A Treasury Board document shows that cabinet previously approved $16 million in “economic action plan” advertising in the first quarter of this year.
That doesn’t include $5 million approved for a “better jobs” ad campaign, $8 million to sell Canadians on cuts to old age security, and $5 million to promote “responsible resource development” — the slogan given to an environmental assessment system that was cut back and restructured in the last budget. All the measures are promoted on the government’s “economic action plan” web site.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
Jennifer Ditchburn connects the dots between Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, the health care accord and oil exports.
Armour says the Conservatives have put three main principles at the centre of their communications strategy: message discipline, acting on insight and opportunity.
The message control has been well documented. The insight comes from properly reading and analysing the landscape and the players, and the opportunity is the moment that presents itself to act.
Somewhat relatedly, Bill Curry reports the Conservatives are turning to public relations firms to manage government communications. And on both counts I’ll refer back to what I wrote earlier this month.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 6:27 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The Conservative government has, to whatever credit should be assigned for such things, recently decided upon a straightforward appeal to you, the well-meaning voter. Vote for us, they now say, or risk the complete and total annihilation of your country. Do as we say, or face the end of everything you hold dear. Don’t even think of quibbling, unless you are willing to be remembered by your children as the monsters who bequeathed them a broken wasteland of despair. Give us a majority, or Michael Ignatieff will shoot this dog.
“Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois government, nothing would be safe,” the Finance Minister told an audience at a posh Ottawa hotel this afternoon.
“They want to throw it all away. They want to cancel the contract or review the contract,” Industry Minister Tony Clement cried out to the House a short while after, putting scary finger quotes around the word ‘review’ as he responded to a Liberal suggestion that the government had moved too hastily to commit $16 billion to new fighter jets. “The minute they do that, all of those contracts—and there are 60 contracts already extant for this plane for Canadian companies—all of those contracts go on hold, too. That is irresponsible. They are threatening Canadian jobs.”
“Mr. Speaker, it probably should not surprise me, but it still does, to hear how quickly and easily members of the opposition, including the NDP, are approving of jail time or large fines for their fellow Canadians who refuse, out of good conscience, to fill out a 40-page questionnaire with very personal information,” Mr. Clement said later when presented with the possibility that his government had erred in its decision to replace the long-form census. “It is incredible how they will sacrifice Canadians’ rights on this matter.”
“The choice is clear,” Mr. Flaherty finally declared for the benefit of the House. “A Conservative government that creates jobs or a coalition government that will kill jobs.”
In fact, that would seem to put it mildly—Mr. Flaherty declining here to mention previous warnings about the criminal gangs that would rule our streets and the Russian hordes that would be clamouring over our borders were it not for this government’s courageous administration. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 1:37 PM - 7 Comments
Ministerial aide Ryan Sparrow helpfully suggests a new slogan for the next Conservative re-election campaign.
Bureaucrats calculated the value of the advertising campaign and prepared an answer the same day. Before making it public, however, they consulted Mr. Sparrow and other political officials on the proposed response. “The ad appeared on national networks, aboriginal and ethnic networks. The total TV media buy was approx $4,536,000. The Olympics package had a net cost of $1,849,829.00,” the chief of media relations, Patricia Valladao, said in an e-mail to Mr. Sparrow and two other ministerial aides, Michelle Bakos and Ana Curic.
Mr. Sparrow answered by telling the bureaucrats to “amend the response,” to simply say: “One 30-second TV ad was created in support of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The ad started running the week of January 18th and will end with the Olympics. The ad highlights key government programs available to Canadians who have been affected by the economic downturn: extended EI benefits, retraining opportunities, apprenticeship grants and self employed EI benefits.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 1:15 PM - 78 Comments
James Rajotte, in Question Period yesterday. Mr. Speaker, as Canada continues to cope with the effects of the global economic recession, it remains essential for the federal government and for federal agencies to spend tax dollars wisely.
Globe and Mail, today. Reports that Tory MPs ran up $6.3-million in costs last year by mailing out so-called “ten-per-centers” to people outside their ridings have opposition MPs calling for new limits on the free-mail privilege … All the parties do it, but the Conservatives have taken to it with zeal: Adding up the costs, the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir found that MPs with the minority Conservatives spent $6.3-million on the mailers, while opposition MPs spent $3.8-million. The average Conservative spent $38,337, including eight who spent more than $80,000, while the average opposition MP spent $17,977. Ontario Conservative Rick Norlock topped the list at $87,749.The Sun was on this file last week and put together this handy graphic.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 9, 2009 at 10:37 AM - 56 Comments
The Star explores the practice of unelected Conservative candidates turning up at government funding announcements. Not mentioned is candidate Denise Ghanam’s explanation when she appeared with Conservative MP Jeff Watson at an announcement in Essex County two months ago.
What’s the rush, I asked Watson; are Conservatives preparing in case the Liberal party decides in Sudbury today it needs to trigger an election? ”These announcements take months to prepare,” Watson said, shaking his head at my suggestion.
Then why bring a Conservative candidate from a nearby riding to a funding announcement? ”I’m still learning the ropes,” Ghanam says. “This is all about the economy.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 6:39 PM - 52 Comments
“Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for public health and for H1N1,” said the white-haired one. “It is very clear that there was a delay in the decision of the federal government to order the vaccine. It is very clear that there has been a delay in the distribution of the vaccine. I would like to ask the minister, in light of these two clear facts that are delineated by the evidence, does she not understand that these delays have cost and will cost lives?”
The Conservatives groaned, having apparently expected something more laudatory of their efforts.
On this question of health policy, it was of course Tony Clement, the Industry Minister, who was offered up to respond. Just as Christian Paradis, the Minister of Public Works, would later take a question on climate change, the Treasury Board President Vic Toews would expound on the scourge of organized crime, and Heritage Minister James Moore would stand and account for the government’s approach to taxation.
“Mr. Speaker, in fact our Minister of Health has been working with the Chief Public Health Officer and has been working assiduously with the provinces and territories across this land to deliver the vaccine,” Mr. Clement informed the House
And surely we can all agree that assiduously is a very impressive-sounding word. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 6:21 PM - 63 Comments
The Scene. Worried perhaps that his point had been lost amid yesterday’s unpleasantness, David McGuinty stood at the start of Question Period this afternoon and picked up approximately where he had left off the day before.
“Remember the facts,” he said. “One hundred million dollars of partisan propaganda without accountability, infrastructure funds distributed as if they were reward points and more than 60 investigations by the office of the Ethics Commissioner, a minister under investigation for his ties to lobbyists and federal agencies, a Conservative senator linked to key players in a scandal.”
Then, a simple-enough question. “When,” Mr. McGuinty wondered, “are the Conservatives going to clean up this ethical mess?”
The Prime Minister stood, buttoned his jacket, adjusted his left cuff and addressed the Speaker on another matter entirely.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a time of global economic recession,” he said, “but Canada’s performance exceeds that of many other countries and the measures of government are well-supported by Canadians and even the vast majority of provincial governments.”
This much had been said in French, the language employed for Mr. McGuinty’s first question. But, before sitting, the Prime Minister switched momentarily to his first language. “This question,” he said, “reminds me of the old saying: ‘When you throw mud, you lose ground.’”
So there. The Prime Minister returned to his seat then, entirely done dealing with the Liberals for the day. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 26, 2009 at 6:25 PM - 40 Comments
“Mr. Speaker, survey after survey about the H1N1 vaccine show a dangerous trend. Only half of Canadians are planning to get vaccinated. That is down from two-thirds in July. Too many people do not think it is safe, do not think it is necessary. That is a communications failure that could put lives at risk,” Mr. Goodale posited. “How does the Prime Minister justify an advertising tsunami of $100 million for partisan Conservative propaganda, but only a pittance for crucial information about vaccinations?”
The Prime Minister, alas, was not present. In his place, Tony Clement took a turn.
“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “the honourable Minister of Health is doing an excellent job in communicating to Canadians about the H1N1 flu situation.
“She has said that the vaccine would be available to every Canadian who needs and wants one,” Mr. Clement reported on behalf of Leona Aglukkaq, seated perhaps 20 feet to his right. “Not only is the Minister of Health urging Canadians to get the vaccine but the Chief Public Health Officer is doing so as well. This is the best way to protect our health and the health of our loved ones. Despite the fearmongering on the other side, we are focused on protecting the health and safety of every Canadian.”
To better convey this fearmongering, the Industry Minister wiggled his fingers in the general direction of the opposition side. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 11:39 AM - 79 Comments
Conservative MP Larry Miller tells us what’s really going on here with all these stories about giant novelty cheques.
“This is about the national media trying to help the Liberals deflect the attention off their problems right now,” said Miller. “Anybody that has seen Mr. Ignatieff and his crew in the House of Commons in the previous two or three weeks, it has looked as bad as when (Stephane) Dion was there and the media knows it, the Liberals know it and they are just trying to make an issue out of something.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 7:05 PM - 33 Comments
CBC explores the irony of news that the ethics commissioner will be investigating the ethics of giant novelty cheques.
Canada’s ethics commissioner will investigate dozens of allegations that Conservative MPs are using taxpayers’ money for partisan purposes. But Mary Dawson says she’s not sure how far her mandate allows her to go into ethical issues, despite her job title.
… in her annual report, Dawson highlighted that while the word “ethics” appears in her job title, it does not appear in the Conflict of Interest Act or the Code of Conduct for MPs. ”It’s quite unclear as to the extent to which my mandate extends into ethical issues that are not expressly referred to in either the code or the act and, in fact, one would wonder whether it extends there at all,” Dawson said at parliamentary ethics committee meeting.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 6:36 PM - 112 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister was not in his seat this afternoon when Question Period began. Which seems a shame. Not least because of the profound moment in the history of his government that he was not there to witness firsthand. The rest of us will at least be able to say we were there, that we saw it with our own eyes and heard it with our own ears. The Prime Minister will have to suffice with seeing it on TV. Or perhaps hearing about it from a member of his staff.
Although, maybe it was best he wasn’t there after all. Indeed, in a way, it’s better he was spared the awful sight.
The session began simply enough with the obvious, the Liberal leader wondering aloud about a potential conflict of interest involving a Conservative senator and a sizable government contract. “Mr. Speaker, a pattern is becoming all too clear,” Michael Ignatieff posited. “The Conservative government is using stimulus spending to buy votes and reward its friends. This morning, we learned that one of the Prime Minister’s newest senators works for a company that has just won $1.4 million in infrastructure spending. At a time when the middle class is struggling, would the Prime Minister explain why infrastructure spending that is needed by all Canadians ends up in the hands of a member of his own—”
His time expired, the Transport Minister stood smirking to dismiss Mr. Ignatieff’s concerns. The Liberal tried again, this time en francais. John Baird once more swatted the question away. “Mr. Speaker, there is no reason to jump to the conclusions that the Leader of the Opposition does,” Mr. Baird declared. “If he has any evidence of any wrongdoing, rather than pontificating in this place, he should put his facts on the table and be accountable for those. We have been completely open, completely transparent with the infrastructure spending that we have made.”
The Liberals howled with mocking laughter.
“The grant in question was made by a crown corporation,” the Minister finished, “with no lobbying and no involvement whatsoever of my office or the office of the Minister of Public Works.”
Here, then, is where it happened. Where everything that once was up turned down. Where left became right, day became night and blue became red. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 3:33 PM - 23 Comments
Liberal Todd Russell, yelling in the direction of Rob Nicholson this afternoon as the Justice Minister took a friendly question about crime legislation.
“What’s the mandatory minimum for cheque fraud?”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 15 Comments
The Conservative backbencher admits the giant novelty cheques he handed out upset his stomach.
The design of the cheques provided to one area MP to highlight infrastructure spending left him feeling “a bit queasy,” he said. Royal Galipeau, MP for Ottawa-Orléans, said he insisted that the cheques provided to him didn’t have the Conservative party logo but said he still wasn’t happy with the design. ”That didn’t look like a government cheque to me. I would preferred it looked like a government cheque.”
… Galipeau was photographed in March handing over a $21,339 cheque for a francophone seniors program in Ottawa with his name printed at the top and his signature below. He says he still thinks the large cheques are a good way to highlight government work and plans to continue handing them out, but using a design based on a real government cheque.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 4:29 PM - 100 Comments
Jim Flaherty, Nov. 27. We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror. Canadians have a right to look to government as an example. We have a responsibility to show restraint and respect for their money. Canadians’ tax dollars are precious. They must not be spent frivolously or without regard to where they came from.
Canadian Press, today. The Harper government spent well over $100,000 staging a one-hour event in June to deliver an update on its efforts to help the recession-ravaged economy. Invoices obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act show a nominal bill to taxpayers of $108,000 for the carefully scripted “town hall” meeting in Cambridge, Ont … Some $30,000 was spent on audio visual equipment and staging, another $10,000 was spent buying the rights to use photos and web images and almost $50,000 went toward printing glossy copies of a 234-page Economic Action Plan “report card.” Another $5,700 went to an outside editing service and more than $3,300 was spent on a communications firm. Almost $10,000 was spent on airfare, ground transport and hotels for some 20 individuals who flew in from Ottawa, not including their meal expenses … The invoices don’t cover the cost of the use by Harper and his staff of the government’s Challenger jet to get to Cambridge, about an hour’s flight from Ottawa. In opposition, Harper and other Conservatives repeatedly said the jets cost about $11,000 an hour to operate.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 16, 2009 at 6:00 PM - 90 Comments
An anonymous Conservative MP helps us understand why his or her side simply had to buy its own giant novelty cheques, and all the money they are saving you in the process.
When we formed govt the crats stopped bringing cheques to announcements & we were FORCED to cough up the $ to buy our own. Specifically, at [a government department I was involved with] the crats used to like to be in the photo ops giving out chqs, as though it was coming from them. They detested Conservatives being photographed handing out chqs, so they stopped bringing the chqs – when they even bothered to show up for announcements. They’ve screwed up dates for announcements so badly (trying to schedule announcements while the House is in session) that we don’t even bother to include them, thereby saving taxpayers thousands of $s in travel claims from the crats.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 16, 2009 at 2:29 PM - 20 Comments
Conservative MP Bruce Stanton twitters his feelings on the partisan use of giant novelty cheques.
stanton_brucemp I can see the reasons why other attributes to the MP on the big cheque are also wrong. These are public investments.
stanton_brucemp You won’t see any such references on big cheques here in the future, including today at the CDC.
Stanton is among those cited by the Liberals for improper self-congratulation.