Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me today to address the motion on government advertising, an issue that I know continues to preoccupy our hon. colleagues on the opposition benches. These preoccupations are unfounded and distracting us from the important work of building a strong Canada. I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the government's important duty to communicate with Canadians about programs that affect their economic and social well-being.
For example, if we go back to 2009, after launching the stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan, we put in place an advertising campaign to make Canadians aware of key initiatives designed to create jobs and strengthen the economy. That was a responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Businesses depend on information and predictability to plan successfully and invest in the future. Individual Canadians also depend on information and predictability to take full advantage of programs designed to help them. That is why we have a duty to communicate about government programs.
Advertising creates awareness of such programs and provides important information that Canadians can use in their business and personal lives. A great example from a few years ago was the successful temporary home renovation tax credit, which was a key component of Canada's economic action plan. I am sure every member in the House has heard from many constituents who benefited from this great initiative, the home renovation tax credit. Not only did it help individuals complete projects and help create jobs for people who were looking for work, but we heard many times that it also helped to bring attention to the underground economy. Small business owners who were operating businesses above board were very thankful that all of these measures had to have tax receipts to legitimize the expenses that were made.
This program created jobs and incomes in the home renovation and construction sector, while allowing Canadians to make their homes more energy efficient at a reduced cost. Indeed, more than three million Canadians, about one out of every three owner-occupied households, took advantage of this program.
Many examples prove the value of the government advertising its program. Consider, for example, communications regarding various tax-relief measures that our Conservative government has made available. I am also thinking about our communications to encourage Canadians to file income tax and their benefit return on time and online to claim benefits and credits to which they are entitled.
We do not need to remind Canadians that this is tax-filing season, and CRA is hard at work processing over 28 million returns that will be filed by Canadians this year. By the end of this filing season, there will be over $22 billion in credits and benefit payments issued to individuals and families. We on this side believe that good tax policy means putting money back into the hands of hard-working Canadians.
We have also had advertising campaigns to highlight opportunities such as training for young people, retraining for older workers and support available for small business owners and manufacturers. Examples of this would be the apprenticeship initiative to get apprentices into the skilled trades market.
All of these programs were good for Canadians, their communities and the economy. Advertising them has been an important part of ensuring that Canadians learn about and use them to full advantage. The fact is that government advertising has had, and continues to have, an important role in advancing our priorities and in strengthening our economy.
It is hard to argue with what has been achieved. The stimulus phase of Canada's economic action plan was successful in securing the recovery by protecting jobs and families, while making important investments to contribute to Canada's long-term prosperity. The economic action plan provided more than $63 billion in timely stimulus. These funds helped create local jobs, supported communities, large and small, and renewed Canada's research and science base. They also contributed to a strong labour market recovery.
Today we can be proud of the fact that the Canadian economy has experienced one of the best performances among the G7 countries over this period of recovery. Over 1.2 million more Canadians are working now than at the end of the recession, one of the strongest job performances among G7 countries. As well, over 85% of those jobs created since June 2009 are full-time positions, over 80% are in the private sector, and nearly two-thirds are in high-wage industries. Indeed, it is the private sector that is driving much of our recovery. It is private sector job creation that is essential for recovery and expansion.
In addition, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system the soundest in the world for the seventh year in a row in its annual global competitiveness report. In fact, four credit rating agencies, Moody's Investors Service, Fitch Ratings, Standard and Poor's, and Dominion Bond Rating Service have reaffirmed their top ratings for Canada, and it is expected that Canada will maintain its AAA rating in the year ahead. This economic resilience reflects the actions our government took before the global crisis: lowering taxes, paying down debt, reducing red tape, and promoting free trade and innovation.
Our government's continued efforts to ensure that every tax dollar is spent as efficiently as possible and that inefficient spending is eliminated have kept our country on track to budgetary balance. Without these measures, we would be in a much worse situation. All the while we have taken all of those measures without raising taxes or reducing investments in health care and social service transfers. The result is that Canada is well placed to retain its fiscal advantage, but most important, we have fulfilled our promise to return to balance the federal budget.
One of the most important contributions a government can make to bolster confidence and growth in our country is to maintain a sound fiscal position. This is especially true in certain and uncertain times, such as those we have faced since the 2008 global recession.
By reducing debt we can free up tax dollars that would otherwise be absorbed by interest costs. We can reinvest that money in things that matter to Canadians, such as health care, public services, and lower taxes. Reducing debt also helps to keep interest rates low, which in turn encourages businesses to invest and create jobs, and it signals that public services are sustainable over the long haul. It also preserves the gains made in Canada's low-tax plan, fostering the long-term growth that will continue to generate high-wage jobs for Canadians.
Government advertising has contributed to our country's long-term prosperity. It is a responsible, efficient, and effective use of taxpayers' money. It is responsible in another way as well. It is responsible because it is accountable. It is governed by rules regarding both the kind of advertising the government can undertake and the reporting of the costs. For example, the communications policy of the Government of Canada clearly states that departments and agencies may place advertisements to inform Canadians about, first, their rights or responsibilities; second, about government policies, programs, services, or initiatives; and finally, third, about dangers or risks to public health, safety, or the environment. The policy also goes on to say that departments and agencies must ensure that advertising campaigns are aligned with government priorities, themes, and messages.
These rules exist to ensure that Canadians receive value for the money their government spends on advertising, and we follow those rules. For example, to ensure accountability, we follow a strict process. Every year, departments and agencies prepare advertising proposals reflecting government priorities, and recommendations are submitted to the Privy Council Office. The Privy Council Office then prepares an advertising plan for the whole of government, which is provided to cabinet for approval. Cabinet then decides which proposals will go ahead and determines the maximum allocation for each. Following Treasury Board approval, funds are allocated to departments to be managed by them.
Once funding is secured, departments work with Public Works and Government Services Canada to implement their campaigns. Then Public Works and Government Services Canada administers contracting and procurement for approved initiatives, administers the advertising management information system, and develops and issues an annual report.
In addition, there are mechanisms in place to ensure that parliamentarians and all Canadians are well informed about government advertising activities. One of these is Public Works and Government Services Canada's “Annual Report on Government of Canada Advertising Activities”, which I just mentioned. This report gives an overview of the government's advertising management practices and outlines its advertising initiatives. It also lists all expenditures by federal institutions as well as expenditures by media type. Through this annual report, total annual spending on advertising is reported to Canadians.
In addition, every quarter the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat posts on its website the approved allocations made from the annual amount set aside for advertising initiatives. On the Treasury Board Secretariat's website we can find interesting examples of the type of advertising campaigns the government undertakes. For instance, it includes campaigns on issues such as cyberbullying, which is led by Public Safety Canada. This advertising makes Canadians aware of the problem of cyberbullying and informs parents and kids about what they can do about it. I doubt that there is anyone in this room who does not think that this is money well spent. We all know that the most effective way to deal with a problem like this is to expose it, and advertising helps us with that.
Let me add that all advertising related contracts are also posted on buyandsell.gc.ca. This is Public Works and Government Services Canada's website for contract related information. All contracts over $10,000 must be posted on the departments' and agencies' own websites.
In addition, advertising research contracted out by the government, whether to pretest or evaluate campaigns, is also available to the public through Library and Archives Canada. Information on that research is also posted online and is reflected in Public Works and Government Services Canada's “Public Opinion Research in the Government of Canada Annual Report”.
Finally, the government's advertising allocations must be approved by the Parliament of Canada. Before spending any funds, an organization must request parliamentary approval to spend through the main or supplementary estimates. The main estimates, set out by March 1 of each year, are the initial budget allocations for each department over the fiscal year ahead. These are then adjusted through the supplementary estimates throughout the fiscal year. Typically advertising expenditures are included in either operating expenditures or program expenditures. As I said, the actual expenditures are reported through Public Works and Government Services Canada's “Annual Report on Government of Canada Advertising Activities”.
The process for approving the government's advertising expenses is thorough, and it is subject to scrutiny at both the top levels of government and here in Parliament.
Canadians expect elected officials and public servants to manage their tax dollars wisely, and they expect us to uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct. To instill that confidence, the government must be open about what it has achieved. It must assure Canadians and parliamentarians that the right controls are in place, and it must provide them with the information they need to judge its performance. That is exactly the approach we are taking with respect to government advertising. It is the kind of government Canadians not only expect but deserve, and it is the kind of government we are delivering.
Government advertising has played an important role in strengthening the Canadian economy when it needed it most. It is efficient and effective in informing Canadians about government programs available to them. It makes responsible use of taxpayers' money. It undertakes it according to the rules and the associated expenditures disclosed in Public Works and Government Services Canada's annual report and in the Public Accounts of Canada.
I see no reason why we should stop what has proven to be a responsible, effective, and efficient use of taxpayers' dollars and why the government should not do everything it can to help Canadians succeed.
I am proud of all the government programs and initiatives we have discussed here today. It is absolutely crucial to make sure that Canadians are aware of these opportunities so they can take advantage of them.
It is shameful that the member opposite would oppose informing Canadians of programs that would actually benefit them, especially since when our government spends money on advertising, it goes to advertisements. When the previous Liberal government spent money on advertising, it went into the pockets of the Liberal Party. That should be cause for shame.
I therefore urge all hon. members of the House to reject the motion before us. As I said earlier, the motion represents a distraction. It is distracting us from the important work of planning for the economic recovery and ensuring that Canada continues to succeed in today's modern economy.