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Tories invoke sponsorship scandal to defend record ad spending – The Globe and Mail

In Canada on September 21, 2010 at 21:03

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day responds during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 21, 2010.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 4:46 PM

Tories invoke sponsorship scandal
to defend record ad spending

Daniel Leblanc

The Conservatives are defending their record advertising spending last year by saying the number compares favourably to the Liberal budget in the days of the sponsorship scandal.

Fending off opposition allegations of partisan self-promotion and waste, the Harper government said Tuesday the increase in advertising spending was largely related to the $24-million campaign promoting the H1N1 vaccination program.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day said if that element was removed from Ottawa’s 2009-2010 advertising budget of $130-million, the final number actually would have come in lower than the amount that was spent by the Liberals in 2002-2003.

“If you go back even eight years to 2002, the Liberal spending on the same account was $110-million. If you take the $25-million that we spent warning Canadians about H1N1, actually it turns out that we spent less than the Liberals did eight years ago,” Mr. Day said in the House of Commons.

Speaking to reporters after Question Period, Mr. Day did not directly answer a question as to whether advertising spending would go down next year back into the $80-million range, which had been the average budget in recent years.

He also did not address the fact the Conservatives, when they were in opposition, sharply criticized the Chrétien government for its advertising budgets and the lucrative contracts that went to Liberal-friendly advertising firms.

During Question Period, the Liberal Party and the NDP accused the government of engaging in wasteful self-promotion activities by increasing their advertising budget by 64-per cent in 2009-2010, compared to the previous year.

In particular, the opposition parties pointed out that the Conservative advertising blitz was mainly related to the $50-million price tag for the promotion of the Economic Action Plan. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the spending showed that the Conservative government is out of touch with Canadians.

“It is not just a waste of money, it is a question of priorities,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “The government’s priorities are prisons, planes and publicity. The priorities of Canadians are education, health care and retirement security.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton added: “After two years of zero increases for the senior citizens in this country who needed the help while inflation was on the go, [the government] can come up with millions for self-promotion.”

The opposition parties were reacting to a report in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail that revealed the record spending on advertising last year.

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