A new federal marketing campaign promoting the Liberal pledge to accept 25,000 refugees describes the Canadian way as one of "open hearts and welcoming communities."
The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship's online campaign will cost $535,000 and will run until March 31, 2016.
The campaign marks the first new advertising effort under the federal Liberals, who were elected on a platform that promised deep cuts and tight restrictions on federal advertising.
The online ads feature images of children and the Canadian flag with statements that include "Canada welcomes Syrian refugees" and "All Canadians can help welcome Syrian refugees. Get involved."
Clicking on the ads will direct people to a new page on the department's website. The page features the hashtag #WelcomeRefugees and urges Canadians to use the term on social media. A separate link on the page is titled "Donate. Volunteer. Sponsor."
"The purpose of the advertising campaign is to inform Canadians of the government's decision to welcome Syrian refugees and to encourage Canadians on how they can get involved and support the Syrian refugee efforts," department spokeswoman Jessica Seguin said in an e-mail.
The marketing push also comes as public-opinion surveys have reported signs of trepidation among Canadians in response to the initial Liberal pledge to bring in 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
The government announced this week that it is pushing back its timelines for settling Syrian refugees. By the end of February, Ottawa expects to have received 15,000 government-sponsored refugees and a further 10,000 who are privately sponsored. The remaining 10,000 government-sponsored refugees would arrive at some point before the end of 2016.
As for the use of tax dollars to promote government decisions, the Liberal Party promised in its election platform to "significantly" reduce the federal government's advertising budget as a cost-saving move.
The platform did not rule out advertising entirely, however. It stated that Ottawa "should use advertising to promote government programs, not partisan agendas." The party also suggested that advertising campaigns would require independent approval to ensure they are not partisan. The Liberals were highly critical of the previous Conservative government for its use of government advertising, which included spending millions to promote its Economic Action Plan.
Since the start of the fiscal year that began April 1, the Conservatives had approved $56-million in advertising, including $3-million for a Citizenship and Immigration campaign on services to newcomers.
The most recent final numbers for the annual advertising budget show that $75.2-million was spent in 2013-14, which was up from $69-million the previous year but below the recent high of $136.3-million in 2009-10.
Conservative MP and immigration critic Michelle Rempel said government ad campaigns will be under close scrutiny in light of the Liberal promises in this area.
"The Liberals did spend a lot of time in Parliament last time talking about government advertising and they're going to have to walk a very fine line because they made some pretty bold statements on that," she said. "The bigger question is how much are they spending on everything [related to refugees]."
NDP MP Daniel Blaikie said advertising in this area could be justified, but he would like to see the Liberals come forward with their new guidelines on the types of ads that can be approved.
"There was a lot of bad advertising under the last government," he said. "I think having some guidelines in place to give people a sense of what we can expect from the government and what constitutes reasonable public advertising would be a good thing."