Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.
Obviously, in the past, both Liberal and Conservative governments have run publicly funded, partisan government advertising campaigns in order to promote their own partisan interests. The abuse, particularly by this government, is unbelievable. For example, the Conservative Party's 2011 election platform spoke of a Canada that is strong, free and proud of its history. The same keywords are used on the Conservative Party's website today. That is interesting.
What is more, these keywords are also used in government advertising. The publicly funded advertising campaign for Canada's 150th anniversary celebration uses the same keywords in its slogan: “Strong. Proud. Free.”.
The Conservatives have even refused to release the documents regarding the decision to use this partisan slogan in publicly funded ads. A reporter asked the Treasury Board to provide any information related to the decision to use the “Strong. Proud. Free.” slogan, and he was told that there was a 149-page document submitted to cabinet to justify its use. That is a lot of pages. Imagine how long it took government employees to write 149 pages just so that the government could use a partisan slogan in its advertising. It is unbelievable.
What is more, much of the advertising for the economic action plan does not provide any useful information about government services. In a poll to evaluate the 2012 advertising campaign, respondents described the ads as propaganda and a waste of money. Those are not our words. They are the words of ordinary Canadians. Only six of the 1,000 respondents said that they consulted the actionplan.gc.ca website for more information.
The Conservatives also wasted $2.5 million on advertising for a Canada job grant that did not even exist. Advertising Standards Canada's standards council found that the government campaign, which ran during the NHL playoffs, was misleading because it was announcing a program that had not yet been negotiated with the provinces. It is unbelievable.
Today, the Conservatives continue to waste money on promoting their campaign promises to adopt policies on income splitting, which benefits the wealthy, while these tax breaks do not even exist yet. The Conservatives are treating taxpayers with utter disrespect.
Ads for the economic action plan have cost taxpayers more than $113 million since 2009. That money could have been used to create an innovation tax credit, for example, to allow businesses to invest in machines and equipment and create jobs for Canadians. That is one of the NDP's good ideas.
In 2013, the Conservatives spent $16.5 million on advertising natural resource development, millions of dollars of which was spent abroad. They are not even spending that money here in Canada.
In March 2010, Conservative government officials met with representatives of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers; they agreed—it is lobbying, really—on an intense communication strategy. In one year, that money could have paid for 11,000 home renovations under the eco-energy retrofit program to help Canadians reduce their heating bills. Imagine that.
The Conservatives' hypocrisy never ceases to amaze us.
Since 2009, they have spent more than $40 million of taxpayers' money on advertising concerning tax relief for Canadians. They could have used that money to hold a national inquiry to obtain justice for missing and murdered aboriginal women. That would have been a good idea. Advertising for Canada's 150th anniversary will cost $12 million two years in advance of the celebrations in 2017. That money could have been used to keep the Kitsilano coast guard base open for 15 more years.
There is definitely a need for some of the government's advertising, such as advertising for government services for new Canadians. However, for the past few years, the government has been spending 10 times more on advertising for the economic action plan than on ads for government services for new Canadians. We have a duty to ensure that this advertising is not partisan.
As for 2014, while Veterans Affairs Canada was closing its regional offices and depriving veterans who were suffering of services they were entitled to, the government spent $4.3 million on advertising. Furthermore, poll results show that the advertising was not even effective. The government would have been better off investing this money in keeping the regional Veterans Affairs offices open.
Moreover, the Conservatives spent more than $5 million on an advertising campaign for the War of 1812. That $5 million could have been spent on hiring dozens of rail inspectors to help prevent another disaster like Lac-Mégantic.
The Conservatives spent $1.5 million on advertising the apprenticeship program even before the program officially existed, thus blurring the line between partisan advertising and advertising for government services that actually exist. It is understandable that Canadians do not know whether or not a program exists and how to access it. The Conservatives did nothing to inform Canadians about the changes to employment insurance.
It is quite impressive when you look at the numbers. This government spent $86 million on advertising in 2006, $84 million in 2007, $79 million in 2008, $36 million in 2009, $83 million in 2010, $78 million in 2011, $69 million in 2012 and $75 million in 2013. We do not yet have the figures for 2014, but since it was a pre-election year, it would not surprise me to see that the government spent even more than it did in 2013. We will see.
I have to wonder why the government continues to spend money on advertising campaigns, when its own internal assessments indicate that Canadians consider these ads to be a waste. How can the government justify these expenses when it is shutting down service offices? If these campaigns are as useful and as non-partisan as the government claims, why is it so afraid of submitting these expenses to a third party review?
Why did the Conservatives put money into this advertising, even though their own officials were telling them that the economic action plan ads violated Treasury Board rules? I also have to wonder why they do not want to release the documents related to the “Strong. Proud. Free.” slogan. The answer is simple: they have something to hide.
Let us not kid ourselves, though. The Liberals were no different. If that were not the case, they would not be trying to improve their image with this motion. That is what this is all about. I would like the Canadians watching us to know that there was abuse, and I am not just talking about the sponsorship scandal. In fact, previous Liberal governments used taxpayer money to finance partisan advertisements.
For example, the Chrétien government used $2 million in public funds to promote the need for health system reform. It too chose to do that during the hockey playoffs, just like the current government.
If that party and its member are really serious about wanting to do something to address this problem, may I suggest they look at the Australian model, which has real teeth and truly respects taxpayers' money.