Feds spend $40 million to pitch natural resources – by Bruce Cheadle (Toronto Star – November 29, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA — Canadian Press – The Conservative government is spending $40 million this year to advertise Canada’s natural resource sector — principally oil and gas — at home and abroad.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver revealed the figure Wednesday as his department seeks another $12.9 million to augment an international campaign designed to portray Canada as a stable and environmentally responsible source of energy.

That will bring NRCan’s 2013-14 ad budget to about $40 million — $24 million for advertising abroad and $16.5 million for the domestic market.

“The government has a responsibility to provide Canadians with facts to assist them in making informed decisions,” Oliver, under opposition questioning, told a Commons committee.

“This engagement and outreach campaign will raise awareness in key international markets that Canada is an environmentally responsible and reliable supplier of natural resources.”

The entire federal government advertising budget last year was about $65 million, according to preliminary estimates, with $9 million allotted for Natural Resources.

In 2010-11, NRCan spent just $237,000 on advertising, according to the government figures.

Outside the committee room, Oliver justified the spending by linking it directly to winning over American public opinion in order to get approval of TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The $5.4-billion project to carry Alberta bitumen to the Gulf Coast has become a lightning rod for environmental activists as it awaits a decision from U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Let’s understand what is at stake here,” Oliver said. “When we’re looking at Keystone, for example, we’re talking about tens of thousands of jobs.”

Asked to justify ad spending for one industrial sector that’s swallowing up almost two thirds of last year’s total government ad budget, Oliver was emphatic: “You justify it by what it’s going to achieve and there are billions, tens of billions of dollars, in play.”

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