Thursday, March 16, 2006

McGuinty dons Promise Breaker mantle again

Journalists have started shining a harsh light on the McGuinty regime for their new crop of government-paid television advertising. Christina Blizzard is the first out of the gate, with a column in Wednesday’s Toronto Sun.

The award for the most money spent on government advertising during the recent Oscars broadcast? The envelope, please. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen: A round of applause for the Government of Ontario.

Yes, you lucky taxpayers. You and your hard-pressed tax dollars, were front and centre during the Academy Awards on March 5.

Remember their ads? You know, the cute one with the darling little baby selling the virtue of immunization and the government's new vaccines? And the one that tells us to quit smoking? Then there's the tourism ad that sells the virtue of visiting Ontario -- to Ontarians.

There were five 30-second spots in all. Two for tourism, two for health and one smoking cessation ad was for the Ministry of Health Promotion. The cost to air them on Oscar night was $44,000 per spot -- for a grand total of $220,000.

As Blizzard notes, among the most highly touted of the Liberals’ 200-plus election promises was this pledge: “We will implement the McGuinty bill to ban self-promotional government advertising and authorize the provincial auditor to review and approve all government advertising in advance.” This promise grew out of the Liberals’ moral (cough) indignation at the Harris government using government-paid TV ads to tout, among other things, their education reforms and health care spending.

According to the Liberals, the auditor approved the McGuinty government ads, leading to the reasonable conclusion that the Harris ads would also have passed muster, as they were no more “partisan” than the Liberals’: they, too, promoted government initiatives, not members of the government or the PC party.

I remember an occasion during the Harris years, when one of Harris’s top strategists mentioned that some of the PC MPPs expressed discomfort with the government-paid ads. His response to the MPPs was “We can stop them, but it would be like cutting off your oxygen.” Looks like the McGuintyites have come to the same conclusion. But I would argue that their hypocrisy, after having explicitly run against the concept of government advertising, sets them apart from the conservatives.

The tally of McGuinty broken promises is now somewhere north of 50.

As I have noted elsewhere (see "Reflections on the Revolution"), many of the Common Sense Revolution’s themes and policies have survived the conservatives’ defeat, but the next big test will be the October 2007 general election. Then we will find out if it is important for a government to fulfill the platform it ran on, or whether other issues will rate higher in voters’ minds.

Among the journalists most critical of the Harris ads was The Toronto Star’s Queen’s Park columnist Ian Urquhart. He is off this week, but look for him to weigh in on this issue soon.


andycanuck said...

IIRC, at the time the Harris Government also pointed out that they were spending less on such advertising than the Rae Government.

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Anonymous said...

This explains why the MSM is left wing. Big government advocates, socialists and centrally planners will spend more on advertising in the MSM. Plus the MSM marketing VP’s only have to call on one customer to get ads – the gub’mint. If conservatives shrink government by outsourcing, then the new entities will conserve cash and only spend shareholder money wisely. Plus the MSM will have a lot more work to do to cultivate the many new relationships.

The more you think about it, it is surprising the MSM has anything good to say about conservatism. Unless, unless Belinda could teach them about how the privatized pie grows bigger than the government pie. Also that more customers means more lunches and golf for the VP marketing. George Radwinski would support that, maybe he can write a book about it in jail.


Anonymous said...

It's useful to look at who the government is hiring to figure out where their priorities lie. If you check out who the Ministry of Education is hiring right now, it's all communications people to tell the public what a fantastic job they're doing, rather than, you know, hiring people to actually do stuff.