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.