Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Harper Government and Taxpayer-Funded "Campaign" Advertising

With it appearing less and less likely that the Harper government will be able to balance the budget for fiscal 2015 - 2016 and with Canadians heading the polls in October, I wanted to take a look at one area where the current government both could and should scale back spending.  Please note that the data used in this posting is current to the latest annual report released by the federal government.

Here is a table showing how much the Conservatives have spent on advertising for the last five fiscal years:


The $75.2 million spent in 2013 - 2014 is about average over the four year period from 2010 - 2011 but down significantly from the $136.3 million spent in fiscal 2009 - 2010.  In that fiscal year, spending was elevated because the government felt that it was necessary to inform the public about government initiatives that were being taken because of the global economic crisis (the Economic Action Plan) and the global H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Here is a pie chart showing how much was spent on advertising on various types of media in 2013 - 2014:


In 2013 - 2014, 46.45 percent of the federal government's advertising spending was on television, 27.07 percent was spent on internet advertising and 11.92 percent was spent on radio advertising.  The remainder was spent on print (both daily newspapers and weekly/community newspapers as well as print magazines), cinema and out-of-home.

Here is a table showing how much was spent on advertising by various federal government institutions in 2013 - 2014:



Three government departments spent nearly 45 percent of total federal spending on advertising as follows:

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - $11,666,713.36
Natural Resources Canada - $11,058,800.20
Department of Finance Canada - $10,543,894.72

Major advertising campaigns included the following Departments/Agencies, campaign type and amounts:


You will notice that the second largest single expenditure of $10,543,895 was on advertising like this:


These ubiquitous Economic Action Plan commercials and signage began to appear in the 2009 - 2010 fiscal year budget (presented on January 27, 2009) which was used as a stimulus vehicle to help the Canadian economy extricate itself from the Great Recession as shown on this screen capture:


Who would have thought that, six years later, we'd still be seeing economic action plan signage and commercials?  Apparently, you can't flog that horse enough!

In fact, the Economic Action Plan has grown to be such a part of the Conservative platform that it even has its own website which you can find here and its own Twitter feed that you can find here.  Obviously, some group of civil servants are being paid to maintain these propaganda machines.  Personally, I prefer this version of the "Conservative Economic Action Plan" website which provides us with this potential television commercial that would be perfect during the 2015 election cycle:


Back to the subject at hand.  Since 2009 - 2010, the Harper government has spent this on Economic Action Plan advertising:

2009 - 2010 - $53,159,848
2010 - 2011 - $19,001544 (CRA, Finance, Human Resources)
2011 - 2012 - $11,485,424 (CRA and Finance)
2012 - 2013 - $14,891,026
2013 - 2014 - $10,543,895


In total, over five fiscal years, the Harper government has spent $109.08 million on what have morphed from informative advertising in 2009 to very thinly veiled campaign commercials paid for by Canadian taxpayers in 2015. 

You are most welcome, Mr. Harper.