Sponsorship changes . . . no gift for taxpayers

Ottawa - Thursday, December 26, 2002 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Last week, the federal government announced a series of changes to its sponsorship, advertising and public opinion polling practices. 2002 was not a successful year as far as defenders of government advertising and sponsorship are concerned. In fact, it was downright awful.




Through the media and other avenues we learned that the $40 million in annual sponsorship activity funding doled out by Ottawa was subject to widespread abuse and mismanagement. As Auditor General Sheila Fraser noted in the whole GroupAction affair (three questionable contracts for $1.6 million of little work), senior public servants broke about ìevery rule in the bookî in managing this highly political side of government spending.




In addition, the RCMP is investigating contracts awarded to GroupAction, Communication Coffin and Lafleur Communications.




Of course the ultimate question was ñ and still is ñ why does the federal government sponsor fishing derbies, grand prix motorcar races, fireworks festivals, hunting shows and litany of other activities? What value is gained from such spending? What public goods or services are actually delivered when Ottawa doles out $750,000 to a Formula One race speeding through the streets of Montreal?




The answer is that there is absolutely no long-term value whatsoever for taxpayers to have a Government of Canada wordmark displayed at a local festival, sporting event or on CFL playersí helmets. It is simple federal vote buying and waste Ö nothing more, nothing less.




But instead of shutting down this program and oh letís see perhaps buying a dozen MRI machines with $40 million, last week the feds announced that they were making changes to this program, or to quote from the governmentís own news release, to ensure that the programs (sponsorship, advertising and polling) are ìbetter managed.î




This is official Ottawaís answer to most boondoggles Ö donít belive it?
Look at the record: Corporate welfare run amok Ö weíll manage the program better; Gun registry costs ballooning to $1 billion, letís try harder; and on it goes from our federal politicians and bureaucrats.



limited to

In fairness to the government, sponsorships will now be limited to not-for-profit Canadian organizations holding events in Canada only. So say so long to Government wordmarks on CFL helmets and NHL rinkboard advertising. Ditto for wordmark placement at centre ice or on the outside of sports facilities.




What is still unclear is whether this restriction on government advertising will apply to crown corporations such as Via Rail and Canada Post who also heavily advertise at sporting and cultural events?



value for

The feds now claim that ìvalue for money, stewardship, flexibility and transparencyî will guide their sponsorship decisions which brings us back to the original question: How does placing a government wordmark at a fireworks festival ñ which happens at night so most people canít see the wordmark anyways ñ constitute value for money when a host of other more pressing needs (health care, debt repayment, the military, urban infrastructure) exist for scarce federal dollars?



$40 million

Last weekís sponsorship changes are a more than a few days late, some $40 million short and certainly no gift to taxpayers. Bah humbug.
  Walter Robinson
Federal Director


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