Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conservative advertising hijinks: using taxpayer funds to support their message

The media are picking up on the new government ads that are running, the advertising in support of the government's "action plan." The new ads differ from previous ones put out by the government this year in that there's an additional messaging angle thrown in. There is, for example, an elderly man who states at one point in the ad that we have to "stay on track," with the clear implication that there should be no election. You can watch that part here (it occurs around the 1:25 onwards point).

This new advertising message is paid for by taxpayers to the tune of $5.6 million. It supports the Conservatives' present political argument that no election should occur this fall as it will interrupt the flow of action plan stimulus funds. In addition to the CTV report, the Globe picked up the story too:

While both the Conservatives and Liberals are now airing ads designed to prepare the ground for an election campaign, a new series of government ads – paid by taxpayers – appear to echo the anti-election lines that Conservative politicians have been using.

Tories like Transport Minister John Baird have argued an election would slow stimulus spending of infrastructure projects. The government’s new taxpayer-funded $4.1-million TV ad campaign to tout the stimulus package – purchased in August – airs commercials that include the tag line: “We can’t stop now.”

Here's a recent example of the government's messaging, Flaherty on Friday, which echoes the ad:

Canada needs to stick with the Conservative's stimulus plan in order to maintain the economy's "fragile recovery," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday.

Despite signs of economic recovery, Flaherty said that Canada remains vulnerable to recessionary pressures, which could re-emerge if spending is cut off early.

"We have to complete the stimulus (and) make sure we have an entrenched recovery," he told CTV's Canada AM.

This argument that an election will harm our economic recovery is nonsense:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says an election would "screw up" the fragile economic recovery.

But that's not the view on Bay St. There, it elicits laughter.

"You believe that?" blurted Avery Shenfeld, senior analyst at CIBC World Markets.

National political campaigns are not a cause for concern on Bay Street, he said.

"We don't typically see a lot of financial market or business response to Canadian elections," which, Shenfeld noted, "don't tend to be revolutionary."

More here, "Economists say a federal election unlikely to derail Canada's economic recovery."

The Communications Policy of the Government of Canada includes this item, section 23 dealing with advertising:
Institutions must not use public funds to purchase advertising in support of a political party.
Action plan ads that incorporate the Conservatives' "stay the course" plea are quite arguably in breach of government communications policy. While the ads do not overtly support a political party, let's not kid ourselves, in their substance that's exactly what they are meant to accomplish.