Conservatives underestimate government advertising costs by 37 per cent

OTTAWA – A spokesman for federal Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose says the Harper government is being transparent with its advertising expenses because cabinet approvals of advertising budgets are posted quarterly.

But an examination of the Conservative government’s first five years shows it overspent those cabinet-approved ad budgets by $128 million — more than 37 per cent.

The Conservatives are coming under fire for their current, gauzy “economic action plan” media blitz — part of a $16-million campaign that is saturating Canadian airwaves this autumn.

Treasury Board documents show that even in a time of across-the-board budget cuts, the Conservative cabinet has approved more than $64 million in ad spending this year.

That’s up from just under $53 million approved for the 2011-12 fiscal year, although the actual dollars spent won’t be available until the annual report on government advertising is released at some future date.

In the last full year for which final accounting is available, the Harper cabinet posted advertising approvals for $65.4 million in spending, but in fact ran up a bill of $83.3 million.