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Liberals lash out at Tory backdrop largesse

Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a closing press conference at the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., on June 26, 2010.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Liberals have made a weekly event out of highlighting what they perceive to be wasteful spending measures on the part of the Conservative government.

On Friday, the target of their ire was the half-million dollars the government spent on "partisan-style" backdrops from press conferences and meetings and $6.5-million promoting tax measures that were introduced in 2006.

"Following Haiti's earthquake last year, rather than delivering aid as quickly as possible, the Conservative government wasted $27,000 on single-use backdrops, conveniently coloured Tory blue, when they were coordinating a response to the earthquake," Liberal MP John McCallum told a news conference. "To put that in context, it's about 55 times the income of the average Haitian."

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Mr. McCallum also said the government spent $10,000 on backdrops to unveil the G8 logo. In total, he said, in just over a year, the government has spent more than $500,000 on backdrops alone. Documents explaining how he reached those figures are available here.

And he pointed to a Globe and Mail Story published Thursday that said the government is spending $6.5-million of public funds to promote its tax-cutting record in an advertising campaign centred on what is shaping up as a key election issue.

The 11-week campaign, called "Tax cuts … working for you," will run until March 27 - right around the time an election would start if the Conservatives were defeated over the budget. But even though the ads mention Canada's Economic Action Plan - the government's two-year stimulus program launched in 2009 - most of the measures in the ad were announced in 2006.

Mr. McCallum said the government spent more than $130-million on partisan government advertising last year, $45-million of which was spent advertising the Economic Action Plan.

The Conservatives responded that backdrops help them communicate with Canadians.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. McCallum thinks Canadians should be kept in the dark about the programs and benefits the government is delivering, or about the work Canada is doing in Haiti," said Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for the Prime Minister.

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Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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