Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Get By With A Little Help From My Taxpayer Friends

Let's try something novel for a moment, let's FOCUS on an issue. One aspect of the recent polling that's been overlooked, the impact of this "biblical proportions" government ad buy that's saturated every media outlet the past few weeks. I've never seen anything like it, in terms of scope and naked partisan advantage. I would submit, other obvious failings not withstanding, that this massive ad buy on our dime has contributed to rising Conservative fortunes. With that in mind, comes a not surprising revelation, that non-partisan government officials were worried about the government's ad campaign:
Bureaucrats objected to gov't ad campaign: sources

A partisan government advertising campaign paid for by taxpayers raised alarms from the outset among senior public servants who serve Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Canadian Press has learned.

The Privy Council Office, the non-partisan bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, has never been comfortable administering the website for the Economic Action Plan -- and informed Harper of its misgivings at the time of last January's federal budget.

Those misgivings were heard, but overruled.

While the story is being denied by both PCO and PMO, the extraordinary claim originates from several sources within the famously discreet Privy Council Office.

The fact the story is being aired at all -- even under the cloak of anonymity -- suggests just how far the Conservatives are stretching the traditional boundaries of partisan behaviour in Canada's professional bureaucracy.

It reminds me of former Conservative candidates expressing reservations about the war room trying to circumvent clear Elections Canada rules. But, that's "old" news I suppose, nevermind a pattern of manipulation and voluntary disregard for honest engagement.

Today's "revelations" come on the heels of the Liberals launching a formal complaint:
The Liberals have launched a formal complaint with the Treasury Board alleging the Conservative government is "running roughshod" over rules against partisan advertising.

A sweeping national ad campaign to promote last January's federal budget measures has been blanketing the country at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.
Martha Hall-Findlay, the Liberal public works critic, says the Economic Action Plan ads are "unprecedented" and break at least four different government statutes, including the Financial Administration Act and the Canada Elections Act.

"The Conservatives are buying voters with their own money," Hall-Findlay said in a news release on Thursday.

"Not only is that unethical, we believe it's against the law."

The initial cost of the budgetary promotion - which includes a heavy rotation of prime-time television ads - was set at $34 million, but the Liberals researchers claim they've identified at least $56 million spent on the economic campaign from January to June of this year.
Vic Toews, the Treasury Board president, has refused to address repeated Liberal questions in the Commons about the total current cost of the ad campaign.

Figures for total government advertising for 2008-09 have not yet been released.

A staggering figure, but what's more concerning, the Liberals numbers don't include the spending we've seen in recent weeks and months. If my eyes don't lie, the recent blitz is unparalled, which should dwarf already obnoxious figures.

Given that this government rode in on its white horse, determined to bring good government, accountable and responsible government, their practices are all the more offensive. This government has already DOUBLED their advertising expenditure in the last two years, relative to what the "dirty" Liberals did. This current year will most certainly represent a new high, and it comes with increased emphasis on partisan gain. Again, not to underscore self inflicted wounds, but with an ad buy of this size, isn't it logically to assume the Conservatives are benefitting? I'm glad I could help.


rgl said...

I hear you Steve V. But, who else is listening. Who else cares? I don't think the Canadian electorate is willing to turf out the CPoC and Harper for an unknown Ignatieff. Unless the minority gov't survives long enough so that Ignatieff has an opportunity to engage in dialogue and become a familiar figure, the next election will result in a majority for Harper. That's what I fear the most for our country.

Steve V said...

"Who else cares?"

I think the reason it is all so obnoxious and OVERT, a calculation that nobody does care. Or, more correctly, the media will fail to hold them to account in any sustainable way. Once again, just as with the lies about the PMO and Mohamud earlier this week, why is it left to the Liberals to uncover this nonsense. Something is afoot in the land, real journalism is dead. Whenever a hint of it rears, it's never sustained, and the government knows they merely ride out a newscycle, POOF it disappears.

This is a gross misuse of taxpayer money, everyone agrees that is crosses a partisan line. I suspect this will just go into the dust bin, along with the 10 percenters, but it really is scandalous on so many levels.

********************Donas Kim Leaman said...

Well I am listening and I can say that I definitely care.

I am now very worried that Harper will soon draft a bill which includes some real help for Unemployed Canadians but is attached to other legislation that is so sinister that even the NDP will not support it. He can then blame the NDP for "Abandoning Canadians in Need" and remain the Teflon Neocon that he is.

Stephen Harper has no moral objection doing whatever it takes to get His Majority, even though there is not a chance in Hell that Canadians will not regret it, if he does. It would, sadly, result in a much less Canadian Canada. A kind of Canada that Harper has long since been hoping for.

As to why nothing of any substance ever sticks to him, and why the media is so disinterested in helping Canada get at the truth, I have as yet been unable to fathom.

Meanwhile, He does indeed, "Get by with a Little Help From his Taxpayer Friends"

I am a Canadian Taxpayer, but will never be a friend to Stephen Joseph Harper. If only our Media had the wherewithal to stand up and say the same.

MississaugaPeter said...

On September 20, when you initially discussed this, I wrote:

"Steve V, the problem is that every government can and does it. And every opposition is upset about it. And the media fails to focus on it because: 1 they have seen it happen many, many times before (at both the federal and provincial levels); and 2. they are the beneficiaries of the advertising buys.

That is the power of being the government. You determine how much and on what money is spent.

When Michael becomes prime minister, he and his ministers will also be able to direct how much taxpayer money is spent advertising specific government programs. And guess what, in the pre-writ season, the opposition Conservatives will also cry foul and the media will also not focus on it."

All good Liberals are complaining about the media. Well folks, our media is in serious trouble. See CanWest, see Quebecor (Sun newspapers), see Toronto Star (without its Metroland brands). The Conservatives are giving them a lifeline (stimulus package) with this advertising. Expecting them to cut this lifeline requires self-sacrifice. Not going to happen folks.

Jerry Prager said...

They aren't just buying voters, they are buying media silence.
And all this talk of 'every government does it' isn't true to the degree that every excess conceivable is being chalked up by Harper: deficits, patronage scumduggery,: these people lie more than Brian Mulroney, but unlike Lyin Brian, Stephen's not doing it for personal vanity, but because he despises government so much he wants to make it impossible for anyone to ever govern Canada again: he's a provincial thinker, with a very shallow character, and a devious personality: he is the personification of a certain of banality around which evil naturally collects; any lie is ok
because it serves a higher purpose.

Jerry Prager said...

Just did a Google experiment on "Harper lies again" versus "Chretien lies Again" 801 - 0 in .25 seconds.
we should start a 'Harper lies again' movement to make that the number one phrase that comes up anytime anyone searches the word Harper. Harper lies again.

********************Donas Kim Leaman said...

With apologies to Steve V.

Well,I see "Mississauga Peter" is another 'Blogger' without a blog. Click on his name and get a page that contains his name. That all, nothing more, no access to any information at all. Sound familiar? It should it is a Con theme, and it is not called Accountability.

MP (interesting initials tho)You are not even close to the truth here, not that it is important to you. You only do what the other Cons do. Do not think that that makes it OK.

Your post is pure obfuscation and yet more insidious, it is a memeing of the issues. If you aren't familiar with memeing, that's the Schoolyard chant that 'Everybody does it' and it is not going to fly here. Everyone isn't doing it.

I am 55 years old, and I have been watching Canadian politics since I was 10, and in 45 years, I have never seen anything that compares to the Contempt and Arrogance that allows the Harper Government to spend taxpayer's money to promote their Party's ridiculous handling of what is quite rightly Canada's Inaction Plan. The stimulus package is not stimulating the economy and you know it. It is not creating infrastructure and you know it. It is not creating jobs, and you know it. It is not OK to spend what should be Stimulus money to promote Harper's lame plan and you know it. It is not OK to say that all the Parties do it, and you know it.

Click on my name and all of my realinformation is there. 'I' am there, not just another page that contains only my name. That is accountability and I have it and you do not and You know it.

So stop making excuses for Harper's Contempt, he has contempt for you too,as he does for every Canadian and deep down you know it.

Steve V said...

MP is a Liberal, or at least a Kennedy supporter.

As for your argument, that's such bunk. As I said in the post, this level and scope is unprecedented, so using the "everybody does it" argument doesn't is a little too convenient. Add to the fact they're making a mockery of one of their supposed core tenets, and this isn't garden variety stuff. You probably also know other government's have imposed restraints on themselves.

MarpMan said...

Who Cares?

I most certainly do! The Harper government has patterned its style of politics after the Bush-era. They have been successful, but they are attempting to change the landscape. Maybe it is inevitable, the hate ads, the innuendo and how they start a rumour which takes on a life of its own (ie Obama being a Muslim...a rumour which still floats).
It frustrates me to see this happen.
Even worse, the Action Plan ads and the corresponding website show a warm and fuzzy Harper almost everywhere. Its brazen and not subtle. It just does not seem to stick though. The Harps are quick to bring up AdGate...wonder who is getting all of this cash?

Steve V said...

People have always cared about gross misuse of taxpayer money. Heck, CTV covered the Ontario Liberal AG press conference in it's entirety. The trick here, don't fall for the silliness that MP proposes, because it absolves the behavior.

********************Donas Kim Leaman said...

Interesting that I was unable to discern that Mississauga Pete is a Liberal. Doesn't seem like it on this occasion, does it? Or did I misread it?

Steve V great blog post! It is an interesting conversation to say the very least.

Lizt. said...

Isn't Mississauga Pete an NDP?

JimmE said...

One needs to look at the facts. The folks who are behind the present PM are the same folks who made very similar ad buys for the smell formerly known as Ontario Premier Harris. Under present Ontario Law, the kinds of ads that the federal government has made would NOT BE PERMITTED. The irony is the very folks who came to power on a wave of voters PO'd that federal Ad money was spent on Canadian Unity are the same folks using the public purse to support themselves.
Canadians are not stupid & will yet awake from their slumbers.

Gerry said...

The media aren't reporting the Conservatives' gross abuse of taxpayer dollars because they are benefitting from it. In this time of recession, when media are clammering for advertising dollars, they're not going to bite the hand that feeds it.

********************Donas Kim Leaman said...

Gerry good point, I guess we will Just have to bite it for them Eh? I'd love to become Canada's Michael Moore. lol


MississaugaPeter said...

It's pathetic when Liberals call you out as a Conservative or an NDPer whenever someone states something that is contrary to their thinking. Just pathetic. I was president of the University of Alberta Liberals in the 80's. I have been a Liberal longer than some of those posting here have been alive. Pathetic.

BTW Donas Kim Leaman, in your 55 years you must have missed the real BIGGEST pre-election spender ($/voter) of all time - Mike Harris!

"Harris Calls Election...This in the wake of a 12-month, $32-million barrage of government advertising that might even make that old propagandist Pierre TRUDEAU blush with shame."

With so many top Harris ministers around him (Flaherty, Baird, Clement), Harper did the same thing when he became prime minister. It was a headline for a day, and then disappeared (just like this one will, everywhere except in Liblogs).

"Federal ad spending doubles under Harper" - front page, National Post, July 28, 2008.

Do a google search and you will also find that even us Innocent-As-A-Lamb Liberals have a less than spotless record of pre-election, tax-payer funded spending and unkept election promises (I guess I will now be called a closet Conservative or closet NDPer).

I agree partisan, tax-payer funded advertising is wrong. But my memory is too good (and I would call have to call myself out as a FOOL) if I thought that it will stop because it was right.

And all those complaining about not enough H1N1 advertising, hold onto your hats folks, just watch the advertising buys if the vaccine actually becomes available 2 weeks before the scheduled arrival date.

Mark Francis said...

"everybody does it"

Even if true, the response to this needs to be "You are fired" every time.

I'd like to see our standard for government raised, not lowered.

********************Donas Kim Leaman said...

Mississauga Peter, I am sorry that your post has confused a couple of us, but the statement that this kind of Behavior is nothing new, is not a useful one.

This is exactly what the Cons have been saying. And we both know why they are saying it.

I was in Ottawa from 1995, until 2007, so I remember Harris, his tactics, his attacks on the poor, and the Hidden deficit that he left McGuinty. I know that Flaherty honed his knives and did much damage to Ontario. I know that with a Majority Government He would do exactly that to Canada.

Thanks for the link to this abysmal Harris record and thanks for insinuating that it is normal.

It is not normal, and it is not ethical, and it is not good enough.

Did you read the link I sent you? It is actually a series of short videos featuring Mel Hurtig and is essential to add perspective. It explains most of the dynamic behind the Ads, Stephen Harper's dreams, and points to problems this creates for Canada.

It may actually explain some of what you had to deal with in Alberta as it sets out a clear mission statement for the Frazer Institute, which is not exactly a Canadian perspective.

Sorry for the confusion. But I am sure that the message of normalcy of Harper's actions is not the message that best serves Canada at this critical time in it's History.

I see many Major differences in these two Parties, and I will continue to point them out.