OTTAWA – The federal government has turfed a request for details about how much money it spent advertising its economic action plan during this year’s Super Bowl.
Last month, NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat asked the government to disclose the costs of the ad spots aired during the big game.
It took seven weeks for Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose to tell him that she couldn’t tell him.
“The Government of Canada does not disclose information about the specific amounts paid for individual ad placements or the amounts paid to specific media outlets,” she said in the House of Commons on March 20.
Ambrose said the information is considered third-party business and is protected under the Access to Information Act.
“They are hiding behind the regulations in order to excuse their lack of transparency,” Ravignat said. “It is clear that they paid a lot for these ads and they simply don’t want Canadians to know about it.”
Public Works and Government Services Canada purchased seven advertising spots for a jobs campaign and the economic action plan. The ads appeared on CTV national, CTV Winnipeg and RDS. The government got another three extra spots for free due to technical difficulties during the program.
Advertising is one method governments have to report back to Canadians about their programs and decisions.
While he concedes advertising can be legitimate, Ravignat said these ads don’t provide value for money.
“They are vacuous propaganda and Canadians have responded negatively to these ads because they are not talking about changes to programs or changes to services,” he said.
Finance Minster Jim Flaherty’s office disagreed with Ravignat’s assessment of the ads.
“The economy is the number one issue for Canadians and this campaign directs people to government websites where they can receive more information on the programs and benefits that are available to them,” said Flaherty’s director of communications Dan Miles.
The federal government spent $78.5 million on advertising last year – an amount published in a public annual report. The report includes breakdowns of spending by media type and department. It also lists the government’s suppliers and details about major campaigns.
Still, Ravignat would like to see more information provided in the future so advertising dollars can be more easily tracked.
“Advertisement isn’t like any other type of spending,” he said. “It has potential political and partisan ramifications. “
© Shaw Medoa, 2013