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Cover charge: Feds spend $200K on budget's front page

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) and Finance Minister Bill Morneau walk to the House of Commons to deliver the budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada March 22, 2017. (Reuters)

When the Liberal government delivered the coming year’s federal budget in March, there was lots of talk about the spending inside that document.

Turns out, there was some surprising spending on the outside, too.

After a lengthy Access to Information request, parliamentary news blog Blacklock’s Reporter discovered that $212,234 was spent on the 2017 Federal Budget cover.

Last year, $176,339 was spent on the budget’s cover. When the Conservatives government was in power, they spent about $600 on the cover.

National Post columnist and perennial Liberal government critic Colby Cosh shared his outrage at the cost in an opinion piece.

“This is the sort of public funds for essentially partisan purposes that we can’t throw anybody in jail for, except in my daydreams,” writes Cosh. He also laments that no art director at a magazine or newspaper would accept such a cost, and that only about 12 people will end up even seeing the print version, anyway.

According to the information Blacklock’s Reporter received after the finance department withheld spending information on the budget for six months, the McCann ad agency were paid the $212,234 to develop the cover. That includes the $89,500 for talent fees and models in the image.

The email exchanged received via the ATF request showed that extensive discussions were had between the agency and the Ministry of Finance’s marketing department and the Prime Minister’s Office. Discussions were had about what ethnicities the four models should be, and whether the man holding a bridge in the picture should be wearing glasses.

The cost discrepancy between the Liberal budgets and the Conservative ones are tied to the photo sources: the Tories preferred to purchase existing stock imagery and go for plain, solid colours rather than hiring an ad agency.

Canada’s Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty walk to the House of Commons to deliver the budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 11, 2014. (Reuters)

In an email exchange found by Blacklock’s Reporter pertaining to the 2016 budget, staff wrote: “Justin Trudeau’s election mantra was all about positivity, change and optimism for the future…We want this budget cover to illustrate that feeling. In the past, budget covers looked staged and emotionless.”

The 2017 cover’s $212,234 cost  was part of $750,000 spent to promote the federal budget.

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