The high cost of making the government look good

When the government cries broke when faced with common sense decisions like supporting passenger services on the ACR (while stakeholders find a permanent solution to a government-created crisis) that claim should be viewed through the lens of their huge and growing advertising budget.  Spending big on self-promotion is nothing new for the Conservative government.  They have shown no restraint when it comes to tapping the public purse in order to advertise and have set new records that prove it. 

Leading up to the election in 2011, they spent 26 million of your hard earned dollars to promote the economic action plan over a period of three months.  In 2013 they advertised a job grant program that wasn’t even available to Canadian workers and then spent another 9 million tax dollars to attack Canada’s big telecom companies.  With that knowledge it should be no surprise to learn that they have also spent a fortune on photography for cabinet ministers as they attend events.

And what a cost for those pictures too.  Think about this next time you see a splashy photo featuring a cabinet minister, the government has spent over $2.3 million photographing cabinet ministers since it came to power in 2006.  That is a big chunk of change out of your pockets just to try to make the government look good. 

It is clear the Conservatives have no shame when it comes to spending big on self-promotion.   When they brought in their austerity budget and slashed money from every Ministry – no matter how lean as was the case with Veterans Affairs – and still, they grew the advertising budget.

The big problem now is determining how much they are spending on advertising.  As I write this we are still waiting for last year’s advertising budget final tally.  Despite the fact that we are rapidly approaching April 1st, which is the start of the spending calendar for government budgets, the numbers for 2013-2014 are still not available.

Clearly we need to reform how government is allowed to spend and what they are allowed to discuss with Canadians.  A good example is a campaign that gives Canadians information they actually might need to know; like travel advisories and health alerts.  The kind of advertising we should ban is that which buffs up the performance of the Canadian government – think all the economic action plan ads we see during hockey games.

At the end of the day, with the large budgets ministers have at their disposal they could certainly acquire a decent camera and train a staff member to use it well.  The government has to decide if they are tightening purse strings across the board, or only in ways they find convenient for themselves.  You work hard and your tax dollars shouldn’t be wasted so that cabinet ministers can have great pictures of themselves to flash on social media.  It is just a matter of applying some common sense, which is in short supply with this government.