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Conservative loan program cost taxpayer millions in advertising

Opposition critics argued the government was spending taxpayers’ money on ads that were closely linked to the party brand.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A new report shows that for every dollar the Conservative government budgeted for its marquee job-training program, it spent 53 cents advertising it in the first year.

Newly released details of the previous government's 2014-15 advertising budget show that spending on ads linked to the economic action plan outpaced any other campaign.

The TV, radio, Internet and print ads for the Canada apprentice loan program came in at $6.7-million, one of the Ottawa's most expensive campaigns.

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The loan program, first announced in the 2014 budget, was estimated to cost $12.6-million annually in the first two years.

But government forecasts pegged the overall cost of the program at $7.4-million a year over a decade – meaning the first year of advertising might have wound up costing nearly as much as the net cost of a single year of loans.

The NDP complained to the Advertising Standards Canada about the ads in early 2015, arguing they were misleading.

The TV voiceover said that over "the next decade, one million skilled tradesmen and women will be needed to keep Canada's growing economy strong."

The New Democrats argued the number was not supported by any independent statistics or estimates.

Other ads about the Conservative government's economic action plan cost $8.1-million in 2014-15. Opposition critics argued the government was spending taxpayers' money on ads that were closely linked to the party brand.

Other big-ticket ad buys included $8.6-million on military recruitment and $7.1-million on anti-drug spots.

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The Liberals promised during the election to ban "partisan" government ads, and pledged to appoint an advertising commissioner to review proposed campaigns.

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