TORONTO – The Conservative government is showing “contempt” for Canadians by spending far more to promote its own economic action plan than on its plans to fight the H1N1 flu, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday.
“At a time when we’re worried about H1N1, Canadian taxpayers’ money should be spent on public health information, not paid advertising for the Conservative party,” Ignatieff said following a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade.
The Liberal leader’s comments came a day after The Canadian Press highlighted the spending disparity between the promotion of the government’s economic action plan and the ad budget for the H1N1 virus.
The federal government is spending more than four times as many taxpayer dollars on its economic plan as it is on raising public awareness about the flu pandemic.
“This is the kind of wastefulness, this is the kind of contempt for the public that helps to explain why we just can’t continue to support them,” Ignatieff said.
Government ads about stimulus spending have been appearing on TV recently, with such anti-election messages as “we can’t stop now” and “we have to stay on track.”
The TV spots are just the latest $5 million spent as part of a $34-million media blitz trumpeting the Conservatives’ recession-fighting budget.
Meanwhile, public health officials throughout Canada are braced for the upcoming fall flu season, with many worried the H1N1 virus – also known as “swine flu” – could spread.
The Public Health Agency of Canada began running public service television ads on swine flu prevention on Monday.
The federal health agency is spending $2 million on the latest ad buy, but the advertisement itself was produced by the Ontario Ministry of Health and has already been showing in Ontario for about two weeks. An Ontario Health Ministry spokesman said the spot cost the province $1.2 million to create and broadcast.
Ottawa snapped it up, as is, after provincial officials showed it to their federal counterparts a few weeks ago. However the Public Health Agency of Canada did not reveal the ad buy or its cost last week, despite direct media questions concerning H1N1 marketing budgets and television advertising.
“This 30-second television ad is a clear example of the commitment of all levels of government to provide Canadians with information they need to protect themselves,” Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a release Monday.
The Public Health Agency of Canada now says it has a marketing budget of $8.5 million to inform Canadians about the virus and how to best avoid infection. That’s up from the $6.5 million it reported last week.
The minority Conservatives survived their first confidence test of the fall parliamentary session, but Ignatieff has said his party plans to introduce a non-confidence motion against the government as soon as possible. It could come as soon as next month.