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Conservatives spend extra $4-million on action plan ads

The Conservative government has approved tens of millions of dollars in ‘economic action plan’' ads this year even as it cites fiscal restraint to cut programs such as scientific research and environmental monitoring.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Harper government says it's committed to trimming government spending but just can't seem to turn off the taps when it comes to advertising.

Supplementary estimates released by Ottawa midway through the fiscal year show the Natural Resources Department has been given an additional $4-million to fund an ad campaign called "Responsible Resource Development."

That's on top of $5-million the same department already had on the books for the ads, which pitch pipelines, double-hulled oil tankers and pro-development changes to environmental laws as part of the Conservatives' ubiquitous "economic action plan."

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The $9-million in ads by Natural Resources dovetails with $16-million budgeted for the current "economic action plan" blitz by Finance Canada and another $5-million for a job training ad campaign by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

All three ad campaigns have the same look and feel and tout "Canada's economic action plan" – the branding given to the Conservatives 2009 stimulus budget.

The supplementary estimates released Thursday also show an additional $200,000 being spent on a "vignette to commemorate the War of 1812" – adding to the $4.5-million already budgeted to advertise the war's 200th anniversary.

In all, the supplementary estimates reveal that the government's cumulative ad spending for the fiscal year that ends next March 30 is up to $55.2-million.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose's office defends the hefty spending, saying advertising is necessary to inform Canadians about various issues.

It also says advertising expenses for the budget year 2010-2011 were well below the last full recorded year under the former Liberal government.

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