Big Bucks Spent for Harper’s (Distr)Action Plan

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The Harper Regime has spent at least $136 million on advertising in the fiscal 2009-2010 period and it’s likely that this number will be trumped by the 2010-2011 figures. At least $54 million of this is for the Economic (Distr)Action Plan.

Ironically, this amount is nearly exactly what the big media conglomerates had their hands out for in the previous period, when they lost significant revenue from big advertisers like the car companies.  That’s right:  you’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the very same companies that are jacking up our Internet rates and who are whining about subsidies going to the CBC.  Companies like Sun Media, Bell and Rogers.

Also, let’s not forget that the agency that works for the Cons is likely pulling in at least 15% of this spend and more likely 25% of this amount in various fees, including media placement, creative services, research, etc.  Based on some estimates, this amount alone is worth some $100 million dollars since the Cons have taken office.

This scale of campaign is unprecedented and exceeds the budget of some of Canada’s largest marketers, including Tim Horton’s, Bell and McDonald’s.

It’s hard to imagine that as they spread all of this cake around, the Cons aren’t getting super deep discounts with the rest of their ‘normal’ partisan attack ads that they probably just swap out with the (Distr)Action ads.

To sum up, it’s heart-warming to know that many others are waking up to the reality that Stephen Harper has taken a $60 billion deficit and turned it into a $60 billion marketing campaign.

And it’s a big friggin waste of money.

Canadians are sick of the (Distr)Action plan wasting our money.

We’re sick of the billions being OVERspent on planes we don’t need.

We’re sick of the waste that Harper is telling us we need in order to stay afloat.

Make it stop.

Get these guys out of the House as soon as possible.  They’re poisoning our government and our country with their lies.

Again, the irony isn’t wasted on me.  Most Conservatives keep repeating the lie that Canadians don’t want an election and we don’t want to waste $300-$400 million on an election, but many estimate that the Cons have spent at least this amount over the last few years on propaganda and we should probably expect a lot more over the next few months.

That said, I’ll gladly spend $300 million in Canadian taxpayer money so that billions more aren’t wasted on Harper boondoggles.

Here’s the original story:

OTTAWA – Taxpayers are shelling out $26 million over three months for all those Economic Action Plan ads the Harper government is airing on TV and radio.

A marketing specialist says the outlay is more cash than a big advertiser like Procter and Gamble would spend in a year in Canada.

The massive TV and radio buy is shared among three federal departments for slick ads that began airing Jan. 11 and wrap up by March 31. The ads have been hitting some of Canada’s priciest advertising real estate: the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and Hockey Night in Canada.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada has budgeted $14.5 million on three separate advertisements over nine weeks. The Canada Revenue agency is shelling out $6.5 million over 11 weeks, and Finance would only say its $5 million campaign runs during February and March.

All the ads link to the Economic Action Plan website which has drawn the ire of critics across the political spectrum for its partisan tenor.

The current run of television ads is also coming under fire, in particular a Finance department spot that features actors singing the praises of the Harper government’s 2009 budget plan.

“We’re getting ready for the future,” a student-like character tells the camera.

“The global economy is still fragile,” a francophone mother figure quickly adds.

“But we have a plan we can rely one,” chimes in someone dressed as a farmer.

A series of phrases in light lettering hint at specific measures in the plan: “Knowledge Infrastructure,” “Small Business Tax Cuts.” But they don’t explain how people can access those measures.

Critics say the ads are aimed at promoting the government when they should be giving citizens specific program information.

“There is a clear difference between an ad selling Canada Savings Bonds — or perhaps where (and) how to get a passport dealt with — than EAP ads,” said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The federation recently resurrected Canada’s federal “Debt Clock” — last seen in the early 1990s — and Gaudet said “stopping the clock will involve scrapping this kind of advertising that smacks so much of partisanship.”

Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, called the dollars involved “huge.”

“A major advertiser like Procter and Gamble wouldn’t spend that within a year in Canada, it’s that big,” he said.

Annualized to about $100 million for a full year, “not even McDonald’s and Tim Hortons spend anywhere near that.”

Corporate giant Bell Canada spent $89.5 million on measured media in 2009, according to Marketing Magazine.

The Prime Minister’s Office, although it advises and must sign off on all government ad campaigns, referred The Canadian Press to recent committee testimony from a senior civil servant for comment.

Anne-Marie Smart of the Privy Council Office told the government operations committee last week the overall strategy is designed by the prime minister and his cabinet. All ads must be “aligned to government priorities” and must “address the information needs of Canadians.”

“All (EAP) advertising is aimed at driving people to the website,” said Smart. She added that the site itself “is not considered advertising.”

Total federal advertising cost taxpayers $136.3 million in 2009-10, including $53.2 million on the Economic Action Plan.

The 12-week total cost of the current campaign left opposition critics dumbfounded.

“This is an absolutely obscene amount of money to be spending, particularly promoting an ‘action plan’ with no action left in it,” said Liberal MP Mike Savage.

“This is an abuse of government resources. It’s offending Canadians, it’s confusing Canadians and it’s angering Canadians.”

Pat Martin of the NDP called it “tantamount to a blitzkrieg.”

“My God, they’re carpet-bombing the country with self-serving messages at the taxpayers’ expense.”

The spending totals come on the heals of news that Finance has set aside another $4 million to advertise the March 22 federal budget during this current fiscal year which ends April 1.

John Baird, the Conservative House leader, dismissed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s complaints about the $4-million budget as relative chump change.

“If he wants to complain about a million here or four million there, he’ll have to respond why he wants to waste $300 or $400 million on an early, opportunistic election that no Canadian wants,” Baird said.

But Middleton the marketer said the surest sign of a pending election is the government’s own advertising blitz.

“It’s amazing how spending by departments that make you feel the government’s doing something goes up enormously before there’s an election called.”

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