The Harper government has committed another $4 million to advertise itself.
Supplementary estimates released by Ottawa midway through the fiscal year show the Natural Resources Department has been given an additional $4 million to fund an ad campaign called “Responsible Resource Development.”
That’s on top of $5 million the same department already had on the books for the ads, which pitch pipelines, double-hulled oil tankers and pro-development changes to environmental laws as part of the Conservatives’ ubiquitous “economic action plan.” The $9 million in ads by Natural Resources dovetails with $16 million budgeted for the current “economic action plan” blitz by Finance Canada and another $5 million for a job training ad campaign by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
The policy response to this might be something like what the Ontario government established.
Complaints about incumbent parties using publicly funded ads to bolster their re-election chances are, of course, nothing new. But Ontario remains the only Canadian jurisdiction—in fact, one of very few in the world—to seriously tackle the issue. In 2004, Ontario’s auditor general was given power to vet all provincial ads to make sure they don’t amount to pitches for the party in power. Last year, the watchdog’s ad panel (Rose is a member) approved all but two of 165 advertising submissions from provincial ministries.
But those rare rejections are intriguing. The panel wouldn’t allow a set of ads touting the province’s clean-energy policy, finding that their “primary objective was to foster a positive impression” of the governing Liberals. The reviewers also rescinded their approval of ads on reducing medical wait times after they saw that the provincial Liberals had produced a partisan ad “with strikingly similar visuals on the same subject.”