Poilievre, Conservatives blasted over taxpayer-funded 'vanity videos'
Published Friday, May 15, 2015 2:26PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 15, 2015 7:06PM EDT
Opposition parties are blasting Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre for taxpayer-funded “vanity videos” that tout the Conservative government’s child benefit plan, saying the spots are little more than partisan advertising.
A nearly three-minute YouTube video by Employment and Social Development Canada features Poilievre at a consignment sale at an Ottawa arena. In the video, Poilievre speaks with parents as he promotes the government’s universal child care benefit, which the “prime minister has increased,” the minister says to one parent.
Opposition MPs criticized the videos in the House of Commons Friday, saying the Conservatives are using taxpayer dollars for political purposes.
NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie said Canadians want to see their money used wisely.
“But instead, the jobs minister has a taxpayer-funded team filming him while he skips around his riding promoting the Conservative platform,” Leslie said.
Liberal MP Marc Garneau called it a “slap in the face” to Canadians who expect government accountability.
During question period, Poilievre said he would make “no apologies” for “informing parents” of the expanded benefit.
“The reason why the Liberals and the NDP don’t want parents to know about the universal child care benefit, is because those parties would take that benefit away,” he said.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the government shouldn't be dipping into the public purse for "partisan advertising."
While some videos strictly adhere to an information-only script, Poilievre’s “reference values and anecdotes that go beyond factual changes in government policy,” said Aaron Wudrick, the organization’s federal director.
“The bottom line is that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for partisan advertising masquerading as information-based government advertising,” Wudrick said.
The consignment sale spot was filmed on a Sunday by members of Employment and Social Development Canada’s production team. A departmental spokesperson said the shoot took two hours, and the two staffers involved were paid overtime. Post-production was conducted during regular work hours.
Government rules allow departments to use a variety of communication techniques to inform Canadians on policy, and a minister’s role is to communicate policy to the public, Poilievre’s department told The Canadian Press.
Liberal MP David McGuinty said there are too few restrictions on how government officials can use advertising, and the Conservative government in particular, is taking advantage.
He has proposed a bill that would ban any elected official’s appearance in government ads and videos.
“We can do much better by (taxpayers) in terms of the way we use their taxpayer dollars to communicate as a federal government,” McGuinty told CTV News Channel on Friday.
McGuinty also accused the Conservatives of taking partisan advertising too far. He cited Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s team of videographers who work on 24 Seven, a weekly online video diary of the prime minister’s activities.
“If you want to advertise in a partisan way, it’s really easy, you simply go into your Conservative party war chest and you run ads on TV, you produce your own videos using your own resources,” McGuinty said.
With files from The Canadian Press