The Conservative government's annual report on government advertising is nowhere to be found at a time when the use of taxpayer-funded ad spending is under close political scrutiny.
Nearly a year after the 2013-14 fiscal year came to an end, Public Works has not yet released its annual report outlining spending trends and the exact figures for each campaign across all federal departments.
Last year the annual report was released on February 7, but the department won't say when the next report will be released.
"It takes too long," said Liberal finance critic Scott Brison, who held a news conference Wednesday to call for a new system in which government ads must be approved by an independent third party such as the Auditor-General.
Mr. Brison questioned why the annual report has not yet been released.
"We've been waiting for some time. They haven't been transparent in the presentation of these reports," he said.
A Public Works spokesperson said there is no set date for publishing the annual report. The department says the release dates vary from year to year depending on the complexity of the report and that the process typically takes 12 to 16 months.
Mr. Brison said that if the Conservatives won't adopt independent oversight of ad spending, he promised the Liberals would if they are elected to form government later this year. Mr. Brison noted that such a system is already in place for advertising by the Ontario government.
The most recent available annual report for 2012-2013 shows the government spent $69-million that year on advertising. That marked the third year in a row of declines following a peak in ad spending in 2009-10 of $136.3-million that coincided with stimulus spending during the recession.
Both the Liberals and NDP have written pre-budget letters to Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver requesting that the government scale back on advertising in the upcoming federal budget.
Mr. Brison said the government is using taxpayer money to produce ads that reflect the same tone as purely political ads paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada.
"Canadians are rightly angry at self-promotional government advertising that is not aimed at improving their lives or helping their families, but is aimed at promoting a government," he said. "It's all politics all the time."
While Public Works is responsible for publishing the final official figures, Treasury Board does produce interim estimates on advertising spending. Those reports indicate $65-million was spent on advertising in 2013-14 and $64.9-million in the current fiscal year.
Campaigns funded during the current fiscal year that ends March 31 include $14.5-million for Economic Action Plan and "Better Jobs" campaigns, $9-million in Veterans Affairs advertising including a $4-million Remembrance Day campaign, $7.2-million related to Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017 and $6-million to promote tax cuts.