When you think about it, governments receive all sorts of publicity, and it’s free. But apparently media attention doesn’t necessarily follow their agenda, meaning they find a need to mount their own campaign, courtesy of taxpayer funds.
The federal Conservatives are especially fond of seeing that the public gets information with the right spin, according to a report from The Canadian Press.
In 2005-06, the federal government spent $41.3 million on advertising. Since taking office in early 2006, the Harper Conservatives have consistently spent nearly twice that – a total of $78.5 million in 2011-12.
One of the big-ticket items the party likes patting itself on the back about, though, is really a double-edged sword. Harper’s PR people shelled out, on the people’s behalf, $21 million to advertise what it did in its Economic Action Plan for 2011-12.
Stimulus funding was all the rage as the economy went stagnant in 2009. Although the benefit of such deficit spending was long the subject of debate by economists, most governments went along with it. The Conservatives gave it a brand in its ‘Economic Action Plan,’ with distinct signs for projects.
They continued to grace public work with the action plan logo in subsequent years – when it’s in your neighbourhood it’s got to seem like money well spent. This is the pattern people are getting used to from a government that, ironically, at the same time, calls itself a guardian of the public purse.
Amazingly – or amusingly – it also comes from the same government that took some heat over such stunts as money for gazebos in the Muskoka region of Ontario in the lead-up to the G8 Summit.
Also for 2011-12, the feds had campaigns about elder abuse, historical observances on the War of 1812 and messages about drug use.
Getting an urgent message to the people unfiltered would be understandable. What’s upsetting about this is it’s publicity for the sake of image, with tens of millions of dollars deemed a pittance.