Feds spent $139 million in COVID advertising during pandemic

The feds hired one private sector supplier noted in documents as the 'agency of record' to distribute the funding.

Feds spent $139 million in COVID advertising during pandemic
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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According to the annual reports on federal advertising activities, the Trudeau Liberals spent $139 million on COVID campaigns throughout the pandemic.

During the 2019/20 fiscal year, the feds spent $4,494,710 on national advertising concerning COVID. However, they allocated a whopping $72,805,066 the following year. 

According to the latest Annual Report on Government of Canada Advertising Activities: 2021 to 2022, the Trudeau Liberals spent $62,012,941 on COVID advertising. 

Taxpayers received a bill totalling $139,312,717 for these media expenditures. 

Most of the funding went to traditional advertising like television and radio, while the remaining 47% went to digital media. The feds hired one private sector supplier noted in documents as the "agency of record" to distribute the funding.

"The COVID-19 pandemic remained a high priority, with advertising efforts from the previous two fiscal years continuing for a third fiscal year, to inform Canadians about government programs, services and public health measures as the situation evolved," read the 2021/2022 report.

"During this fiscal year, a total of $62.01 million was spent for COVID-19 related media placement through the [agency of record], making up 51% of total media expenditures for the fiscal year [similar to the previous fiscal year]." 

The number one federal institution reporting advertising costs, though not specifically all COVID-related, came from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), which spent $61,779,631 on media last year, followed by Statistics Canada and the Department of Finance.

In December, Canada's auditor general uncovered that about $1 billion in COVID vaccines would expire by the end of the month. She cited "distribution and tracking issues" caused by "government negligence" for the wastage.

Since December 2020, Ottawa has purchased approximately 169 million doses for nearly $5 billion, with Canadians receiving 84.1 million doses since the vaccine became available for distribution.

Auditor General Karen Hogan articulated that the federal government's system for managing vaccines is partially responsible for the waste. The software program created specifically for the task is VaccineConnect, which the auditor general said did not adequately keep track of doses.

She said that as of May 2022, 32.5 million doses remain unused, and another 13.6 million doses have already expired.

Hogan also criticized the requirements outlined in the purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers to buy minimum numbers of doses.

The auditor general found another 21.7 million doses would expire if they failed to identify countries to take them. She cited a lack of domestic demand, with many other wealthy nations trying to donate their doses.

The federal government previously claimed it donated 50 million doses during the pandemic, but only 15.3 million went overseas. They also aided developing countries in paying for 90 million more doses.

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