Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government plans to spend more than $ 88 million to spread its message on everything from health advice to government programs related to COVID-19, CBC News has learned.
This is in addition to the money that departments have already set aside to communicate with Canadians on other matters.
In fact, the $ 88.7 million the government plans to spend this year on communications and marketing related to COVID-19 represents more than its annual budget for all subjects combined over the past decade.
According to the Supplementary Estimates tabled in Parliament this week, the government plans to increase the Privy Council budget by $ 58.3 million – including $ 48.7 million for communications and marketing. The move would increase the Privy Council’s budget for the coming year by 39%.
The Privy Council Office serves the Prime Minister’s Office and plays a role in coordinating departments.
However, this is only part of the tab that taxpayers will have to keep in order to send Canadians government messages regarding its response to the pandemic.
Privy Council spokesman Stéphane Shank has said that $ 10 million in new funding will be used to extend an existing campaign of $ 30 million led by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Another $ 12 million will extend an existing $ 10 million advertising campaign by the Ministère des Finances “promoting economic support for businesses and individuals”.
The remaining $ 26.7 million, added to the Privy Council’s budget, will be used for “other departmental advertising initiatives related to COVID-19, as required.”
Shank said the money will help Canadians receive important information on how to stay safe and healthy and access government programs.
“These efforts have provided and will continue to provide essential information to Canadians throughout the pandemic in four key areas: public health information, financial support for individuals, financial support for businesses and the economy and public safety and security information, including travel advice, ”wrote Shank.
While the amount is small compared to the billions of dollars the government is putting into action to help both Canadians and businesses affected by the pandemic, government spending on advertising has already sparked controversy. For example, advertising for Stephen Harper’s government’s “economic action plan” has come under fire from the NDP and the Liberals, including Justin Trudeau.
This time, critics say the money spent on announcing government messages on COVID-19 could be better used to help Canadians hard hit by the pandemic.
New Democratic Party leader Peter Julian said that Canadians need this money.
“When we talk about marketing during a pandemic, every dollar the federal government has available must go to support families and seniors, small businesses and students. People who are struggling to overcome this pandemic, “said Julien.
“For tens of millions of dollars to be spent on marketing at this critical time, it simply defies beliefs. This shows that the government’s priorities are not in the right place. They really need to make sure that these resources are invested in supporting Canadians. “
Conservative Treasury Board spokesman Tim Uppal said that the new funding for the Privy Council is adding to existing budgets.
“So now we have additional funds in addition to all the other departments that also spend money on communications and marketing,” said Uppal. “It appears that this government is very concerned about its communications and marketing plan.”
Julian and Uppal also wonder why the money is added to the Privy Council’s budget, rather than to departments like Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“I don’t think anyone would have a problem if they increased the budget of the Public Health Agency,” said Julian.
“The Privy Council Office has always been the political backing of the Prime Minister and, therefore, it is twice as worrisome as it was in a time when so many people are struggling and so many people are looking for resources just to get them through. month. that the federal government and Mr. Trudeau choose to spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing. ”
Elizabeth Thompson can be contacted at [email protected]