The federal government spent nearly $ 17.7 million on advertising this spring

OTTAWA – Recently released data shows that the federal government spent nearly $ 17.7 million on public awareness campaigns between April and June, just prior to the government advertising moratorium in the run-up to the fall campaign .
Spending on government advertising in the first three months of the federal fiscal year increased by almost 21 per cent compared to the same period in 2018.

The federal government had until June 30 to spend its ad spending under the new rules put in place by the Liberals to impose a moratorium on government advertising until votes are counted.

Canadians may be expecting a wave of political advertising this fall as parties vie for their vote through promises and partisan attacks on television screens and social media.

At first glance, the spending data may suggest that the Liberals have stepped up their awareness campaigns in the middle of the election year, so that Canadians are aware of everything from tax credits to services for seniors.

But a spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Joyce Murray said the money was less than the $ 56.2 million spent by the Conservatives for the same period before the 2015 election.

In the end, however, the outgoing Conservative government and the new Liberal government spent a total of $ 42.2 million on advertising in 2015-16.

“While the previous Conservative government was using government advertising for political purposes, we are providing Canadians with the information they need responsibly and non-partisan,” Farees Nathoo, spokesperson for Murray, wrote in an email.

He argued that this resulted in lower annual totals.

The total figure for fiscal year 2018-2019 is not yet available, but the federal government spent $ 39.2 million on advertising in 2017-18. The annual figure for 2014-15, which is the last full fiscal year for the Conservatives, was $ 68.7 million.

The Liberals campaigned in 2015 promising to ban partisan government advertising after years of Conservative criticism for putting their party logo on oversized checks or injecting a dose of blue into project ads. infrastructure and other programs.

The Liberals said they would appoint an advertising commissioner to help the Auditor General monitor government advertising and to ensure messages do not wander into partisan territory.

They eventually delegated this responsibility to a third party, asking Advertising Standards, an industry self-regulatory organization, to review all advertising campaigns costing more than $ 500,000.

The results of the reviews, published online, suggest that the industry has requested and received ad changes.

This spring, for example, the review featured print and radio advertising for the new climate tax credit for residents of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick because she said that this measure made “a cleaner economy more affordable for all”.

This, says the review, “is not a neutral statement”. The wording was changed before the advertisement was published or broadcast.

Nevertheless, a report released by the Auditor General this spring indicated that public funds could still end up supporting partisan advertising because of insufficient controls.

The oversight body pointed out that only government advertising over $ 500,000 was to be reviewed by an independent body, which increased the risk of bias in smaller campaigns, especially since digital advertising became less popular. expensive.

In May, Murray said Treasury Board officials would review the spending threshold from which a review was required and look at ways to better assess the risks associated with social media advertising.

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