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Politics Federal advertising spending topped $75-million in 2013-14 fiscal year

An Economic Action plan sign is pictured in Mississippi Mills, Ont., on August 23, 2010. Ad spending had been on a three-year decline after reaching a peak of $136.3-million in 2009-10 when the government ran a large number of ads to promote stimulus spending under the slogan “Economic Action Plan.”

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Conservative government spending on advertising has grown to $75-million, according to an annual report that was quietly posted online Thursday.

The report on government-wide advertising for the 2013-14 fiscal year comes more than a year after that period ended.

Public Works released the report several weeks later than last year. Officials insist it takes between 12 and 16 months to produce the report.

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The report was released on a day when the Conservative government came under fire in Question Period over leaked plans to spend $7.5-million in May on ads to promote the 2015 budget, scheduled for April 21.

The annual report shows federal departments spent a combined $75.2-million on ads in 2013-14, a 9-per-cent increase over the $69-million spent the prior year.

Ad spending had been on a three-year decline after reaching a peak of $136.3-million in 2009-10 when the government ran a large number of ads to promote stimulus spending under the slogan "Economic Action Plan."

Even though the government's stimulus spending was largely limited to a two-year window, the slogan lived on as the government adopted it to describe its general approach to the economy.

The report shows that Ottawa spent $10.5-million on Economic Action Plan ads in 2013-14 and a further $11.3-million on "Better Jobs" ads, which are similar.

Other campaigns included $7.6-million on promoting the government's wireless telecommunications policy, $5.7-million spent by the Canada Revenue Agency promoting tax breaks, $5.2-million by Natural Resources on "responsible resource development," $4.3-million on an anti-cyberbullying campaign and $3.9-million on ads related to Remembrance Day.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair criticized the government's plans to spend a further $7.5-million on budget ads, arguing the spots have the effect of promoting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party.

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"That's contempt for the taxpayers," he said Thursday.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Thursday that advertising is needed to inform Canadians about tax changes.

"We always [have] an obligation to convey changes in government policy, particularly budgetary changes, and so this is no different from any other year," he said.

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