Tories ratchet up government
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:00 p.m. June 21, 2007]
OTTAWA — Preliminary figures for the last fiscal year
show the Harper government has significantly increased government advertising compared to the levels under the Paul Martin Liberals.
A spokesman for the Department of Public Works and Government Services told PoliticsWatch the government spent $71.5 million on media placements in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the first year under the Conservative government.
That is a 74 per cent increase from the $41 million spent over the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the final year of the Liberal government.
Mario Baril, manager of media relations for Public Works, explained in an email to PoliticsWatch the $71.5 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year was a "preliminary" figure that is currently being "validated" by the department. The exact figure will be made public in the department's next advertising report.
The government had originally requested Treasury Board allocate
$61.1 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year for government-wide
"I'm not at all surprised," Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said in an interview with PoliticsWatch. "They have had extensive advertising campaigns."
For example, the government allocated from Treasury Board $3 million
to promote its one-per-cent GST cut in the last fiscal year.
Goodale singled out the major print and radio campaign the government launched last year for its universal child care benefit, which included full-page ads in major dailies across the country.
"That was just one example. Clearly, they've ratcheted up advertising expenditures quite substantially, which is something they said they would not
do," said Goodale.
In the last election campaign, the Conservatives included government advertising as one of the areas it wanted to clean up under with the Federal Accountability Act. The sponsorship scandal that helped bring down the Liberal government was primarily a government advertising controversy.
In the 2006 campaign, the Tories promised to open up the bidding process for government advertising and public opinion contracts to prevent insider firms from monopolizing government business.
Goodale said when he was the public works minister in the previous Liberal government the opposition Tories were "very critical of every form of public advertising."
"They're increasing the money, they're changing the focus and they're politicizing the budget and I think that's all headed in the wrong direction," he added.
According to figures released by Public Works, the Liberals had been bringing down advertising
spending in recent years.
The $41 million the Liberals spent in 2005-2006 was down $8.5 million from the $49.5 million spent in 2004-2005.
"The 2006 federal election resulted in the suspension of most government advertising," Baril noted. "In addition, 2005-2006 was the second year of the three-year plan to reduce media spending by 15 percent annually."
Earlier this week, the Ottawa Citizen reported a review of tendering records showed an increase in non-competitive contracts awarded by the Conservative government in its first 15 months in office compared to the final 15 months under the Liberals.
According to the Citizen, 26 per cent of contracts issued by Public Works under the Tories were classified as non-competitive compared to 14 per cent under the final months of the Martin government.
Top Five Government Advertising Initiatives (2006-2007)
1. Canadian Forces
2. Healthy Living & Sport Participation
4. Canada Savings
5. Canada's Universal Child Care Plan $4.0 million
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