Justin Trudeau's Liberal government spent more than $17 million to advertise the data collection COVID Alert app, new records show.
The advertising campaign was orchestrated by Health Canada under Minister Patty Hajdu. The funds were made available through supplementary estimates, which are not subject to parliamentary approval.
Conservative MP Doug Shipley (Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte) received the documents in response to an order paper question.
Here's what Shipley asked the government:
With regard to the Supplementary Estimates (A), (B) and (C), 2020-21 and the items listed under Privy Council Office as COVID-19 communications and marketing:
(a) what was the total amount actually spent under this line item;
(b) what is the detailed breakdown of how the money was spent, including a detailed breakdown by (i) type of expenditure, (ii) type of communications and marketing, (iii) specific message being communicated;
(c) what are the details of all contracts signed under this line item, including the (i) vendor, (ii) amount, (iii) date, (iv) detailed description of goods or services, including the volume; and
(d) was any funding under this line item transferred to another department or agency, and, if so, what is the detailed breakdown and contract details of how that money was spent?
In its response, Health Canada admitted to receiving $17.4 million in supplementary funding from the Privy Council Office to market the government's COVID Alert app.
Funding of $17.4M was transferred from Privy Council Office (PCO) to Health Canada for a marketing and advertising campaign for the Government of Canada’s COVID Alert app ($10M in Supps B and $7.4M in Supps C). Funding of $1.6M was reprofiled to 2021-22.
A few weeks ago, it was discovered that the COVID Alert App was being used for data collection after Trudeau told Canadians that their personal information would be safe.
Other departments claiming expenses for COVID-related advertising include:
- $900,000 for Employment and Social Development Canada for the Essential Services Jobs/Job Bank advertising campaign, which used the money to award a contract to Cossette Media, and
- $12,000,000 for the Department of Finance to promote Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan financial measures for individuals and businesses
You can read the full response for yourself below.