I was shocked when I first learned that the biggest Canadian advertising clients were our government and political parties.
Why is that, I wonder.
How much time, energy and money do our political parties and governments spend on advertising?
Why do they do it?
Because it works.
Because a commercial advertisement is short fast and compelling. Its why corporations advertise. The more money spent on advertising, the more product you can sell. In this case, the greater the chance of being re-elected, or the more votes your party gets.
Part I: The Government and Advertising
Public Works and Government Services Canada handles advertising at the Federal level. Government advertising as a means of public notification is one thing. Advertising as a means of “selling” something to the electorate is something else again.
It offends me that my tax dollars are used by my government to “sell” their policies and ideas to me.
Governments should not HAVE to buy advertising… if any level of government has something to say, the media will cover it. That’s called “news”.
If it is a good and useful policy presented it in a reasonable way through the news media or on government websites or through mailings should be sufficient.
I don’t want my tax dollars squandered on glitzy commercials with sound bites or pretty print ads designed to gull me into thinking what they want me to think.
There are far better uses for this money.
Health Care for instance.
Think about it. If the Canadian government wasn’t squandering all those tax dollars trying to sell Canadians things we don’t want, they would save a ridiculous amount of money. They wouldn’t need PST/GST “Harmonization” to generate the extra income they are about to start wringing out of taxpayers, instead of adding yet more tax to beleaguered taxpayers during a recession the unspent advertising dollars could be used instead.
Using advertising to sell us policies we don’t want is bad enough (a practice often called “propaganda”) but the absolute worst is that that our government is using our tax dollars to sell us political parties.
The first egregious example of this I saw was the Ontario road construction signs during the Mike Harris government of the 1990’s. All the construction signs did double duty by advertising Mike Harris and the Conservative government. Adding his name to those signs turned information dissemination into partisan advertising – paid for by taxpayers.
That is down right wrong. Of course, Premier Mike Harris had a majority government af the time so there was no stopping it.
[One more reason I dislike majority government.]
Instead of censuring this bad policy, it seems that succeeding politicians have emulated and even “improved” on the model.
Just last year Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the Conservative Party Logo imprinted on Government of Canada grant disbursement cheques. Is this simply a case of misrepresentation? A Conservative party attempt to make the recipients think the finds disbursed were given thanks to Conservative Party largess? If so this is certainly False Advertising. The only legitimate way for the Conservative party logo to be on a cheque would be if the cheque was drawn from a Conservative Party bank account.
Or perhaps Prime Minister Stephen Harper is unable to distinguish between Conservative Party funds and Government of Canada funds. If the latter perhaps the RCMP ought to be considering investigating Conservative Party finances to ensure Canadian government funds have not been spent inappropriately.
It’s bad enough crediting a political party with government works, but it is even slimier to affix their partisan info to public works projects that predate their authority. They are not only advertising, but FALSE advertising — with our tax dollars! I discovered this example in the Hill Times: Sheila Copps: Optics of Conservative cheque scheme dodgy.
Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor counters by harking back to similar Liberal Party shenanigans perpetrated by the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Taylor is only one of many to defend the policy by pointing out the Liberals did this as well. I link to Stephen Taylor‘s blog since he includes the National Post story no longer online.
I am horrified that none of these very smart people seem to get the point.
The point here is NOT that since the Liberals did it when they were in power it makes it OK for the Conservatives to do it when they form the government.
The real point is that it was never OK.
It doesn’t matter who does it.
It is ALWAYS wrong.
[An anti-party person like myself might point out this is just another example of Liberal and Conservative party similarity. They truly are interchangeable.]
The thing is, the government should not be selling Canadians political parties.
Tax dollars are non-partisan. Using them for partisan aggrandizement is at best a misuse of public funds.
If I ran the Zoo er Country…
I would slash the advertising budget. Because the only advertising our tax dollars should pay for is advertising to inform Canadians, not to “sell” us.
That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.
Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament
Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:
The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.