Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Markham—Unionville for his comments on the bill and for sharing his time with me today. Obviously he has tremendous insight into what the actions of the government have been when it comes to using taxpayers' money to produce partisan ads in this country.
There has been some discussion about whether these ads the Conservative government has taken out in prime time, such as during Super Bowl games and hockey games, work or do not work. In my opinion, a lot of that is irrelevant. The real relevance is that the Conservatives are using taxpayers' money. Should it be permitted to use that money to produce ads that could be seen as partisan by promoting the message of a political party. I think that is the fundamental piece we need to look at.
We also need to look at whether the information in these ads is even correct. We have seen many ads the Conservative government has put out saying that people can access this program or apply under that program knowing that the programs do not even exist. A small asterisk under the ad says “if passed or if approved by Parliament”.
Imagine a government taking millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, to the tune of $750 million, to produce ads when some of the ads are advertising programs that are not yet available. We do not know if they are going to be available. Talk about wasting money. That is what a real waste of taxpayers' money is.
Third, not only is the information incorrect, not only is there the partisanship of the ads, but the ads are being used at a time when there are so many other needs in the country. Every single day Canadians are reaching out to the government for better programs and services, for better use of taxpayers' dollars, and for better investments in their communities. All the while, the government is investing in partisan ads to promote its message at the same time it is cutting other services for Canadians. That is shameful.
I am pleased to speak today to the motion and to support it, because our motion calls for the creation of a third-party review process that would vet these ads before they are approved to ensure that they are appropriate, proportional, and a prudent investment of taxpayers' money.
For example, do the programs really exist that are going to be advertised to Canadians? We know that in 2013, Advertising Standards Canada sent a letter to the assistant deputy minister of employment and skills development at the time and indicated that the Conservatives had breached the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, because they were airing commercials that urged Canadians to apply for the Canada job grant. At that time, the grant did not exist. There were no provinces that had agreed to the potential program. Why was the government advertising for a program that provinces had not signed onto and that was not available to Canadians? In my opinion, it should never have been permitted. We saw a similar thing take place in Ontario some years ago.
Others today have spoken about the Government Advertising Act, which was passed by the McGuinty government in 2004 in Ontario to ensure that these things did not happen. It is evident that we need to be doing something similar in the Parliament of Canada.
I know that my colleague, the member for Ottawa South, has a bill that is at second reading right now that looks to establish that kind of policy in legislation. I would encourage members to support that as well, because it is necessary. It is necessary to control misleading ads that are going out to the Canadian public and to control the partisanship of ads, because no political party, no matter which one is in government, should be using taxpayers' money for political advertising. That is certainly how this was interpreted when the Conservative government put out those ads.
Let me speak to the other side of it in terms of how a government makes decisions on where money should be invested. We have all seen the ads during the NHL playoff hockey games. I am proud to say that ads by the Liberal Party are paid for by the Liberal Party. They are not paid for by the taxpayers of Canada, the source of revenue for the Government of Canada. No, they are not, unlike the Conservative ads during those games, which have been paid for by taxpayers.
I will provide an example. This past year, we have seen the Conservatives spend $130 million to $140 million on advertising campaigns. We have seen them spend up to $100,000 for one ad during a hockey game. They have spent $750 million on those ads over the last number of years, yet they have cut things like, in my riding, the Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research, one of the most important groups and institutes in the riding. It did studies on everything for the last number of decades, collecting data in Labrador and looking at all kinds of research on ducks, eagles, moose, caribou, water fowl, rivers, environmental contaminants, all kinds of transatlantic flights, and the impact of 5 Wing Goose Bay on aboriginal culture.
It was one group that looked at vital concerns about the environment in Labrador, and guess what? Shutters were put on their doors in March. It cost a few hundred thousand dollars to operate one of the most important northern institutes that looked at environmental issues, including climate change and the impact on our ecosystems, and the government closed the door on it. It could have paid for it with two ads during a hockey game. That is how sad that is.
We have heard the argument from Newfoundland and Labrador about the $400 million it did not receive as part of the CETA deal. It says it was a commitment, an agreement between two governments, but when the time came to ante up the money, the Government of Canada said no, it was not paying the money to Newfoundland and Labrador. However, it had no issue putting $750 million into ad campaigns.
These are the kinds of decisions governments make, and I believe that governments that make decisions to cut programs and services to Canadians and to use the money to promote their own messages and political interests is wrong. They should be ashamed of continuing to do it. In fact, those ads should probably be assessed, and where partisanship is determined, they should be paying back the money, in my opinion, to the people of the country. That is exactly what they should be doing. They should not get away with these kinds of initiatives. I do not care who is in power; they should not get away with those kinds of initiatives.
As one member of Parliament, I find it very frustrating to lobby for small amounts of money to keep important services in my riding, to keep delivering important services to Canadians, and to not have the fiscal ability to do it because the government in power says that advertising for programs that do not exist is more important than actually providing services to Canadians. That is wrong, and it should be ashamed of itself.