We spent $113 million to promote the feds

We spent $113 million to promote the feds

Viewpoint: Winnipeg Free Press (excerpt)

The federal government's so-called Economic Action Plan could have been worthwhile, except for two serious flaws.

Almost no one visited the government website for more information, and if they had, some of the programs advertised do not exist, at least not yet.

The Canada Jobs Grant, for example, won't be available until next year if negotiations with the provinces succeed. Other advertisements are political, such as promoting the government's measures to protect the environment and promote Canadian history.

Some programs, however, such as apprenticeship training grants are real and the government's website provides useful information about how applicants can receive cash grants to get valuable training.

It's unclear why the website has received such little interest, but it could be Canadians are conditioned to tuning out government information that isn't focused on immediate results, such as cash for home renovations or basement upgrades to prevent flooding.

The government has spent $113 million on advertising for the action plan, drawing criticism as wasteful and unethical, since at least part of it does nothing but promote the Harper government.

Partisan critics should not be too smug because abuse of government advertising is common across Canada and the political spectrum.

The Manitoba government has shamelessly abused taxpayers' funds with blatant political advertising. For example, the government purchased a series of ads promoting its export achievements on the eve of the 2007 general election. These ads served no useful purpose, other than to broadcast the NDP's name.

In British Columbia, the abuse of political advertising has sparked a campaign for legislation that would outlaw the practice.

Indeed, it's past time standards were developed that would prevent ruling parties from abusing their positions — and the taxpayer — with advertising that might serve their interests, but does nothing for taxpayers, except pinch their pockets.

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