Recently I was contacted by a media organization to do an interview on the subject of Government advertising. While I was not available at the requested time, I did offer an alternative day that my schedule in Ottawa could accommodate a live interview. Although the media organization in question suggested they would get back to my office instead they reported that I declined the interview, which was not accurate. I mention this because it is an example on how frequently information can be reported inaccurately even when from an otherwise credible media organization.
The subject of advertising and communications in general is one that is a challenge to all governments and also to elected MLA’s and MPs. As many local media publications are aware there are growing restrictions on what an MP can and cannot advertise. In the case of elected Members of Parliament, all advertising by a Member is subject to restrictions and ultimately must be approved by the Member of Parliament. The costs of local advertising are part of the expenses that are deducted from the funds provided to an MP for consistency expenses within the riding and are reported in the annual Expenditures by Member report from the Board of Internal Economy. In my case last year I spent just under $5,600 on advertising– a decrease from what was spent in the year prior.
Why advertise at all? Advertising in my view is one of many different means how elected Government can communicate directly with citizens. Public awareness, changes in taxation policy, where your money is spent, policy changes and public safety are just a few examples of topics that may be subject to advertising. One recent example is proposed changes to the Universal Child Care Benefit plan. These changes will see an increase in monthly payments to children under 6 and for the first time monthly support payments for children between 6 and 17 years of age. For most families these proposed changes (subject to Parliamentary approval) will see increased monthly supports arrive automatically once the implementation date occurs. However for some families with children under 18 who have never previously received the Universal Childcare Benefit, enrolment will be required. This raises the question how best to communicate the need to enroll? Advertising is one obvious solution and certainly some Members of Parliament have elected to do so. Part of why I submit weekly columns and engage in social media is in part because it is a cost effective way to communicate with citizens although far fewer will likely read my MP report this week compared to a running a quarter page sized ad. For more information on applying for the UCCB please visit this website: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/uccb/
Aside from the topic of advertising it has also been a lively week in Ottawa with a number of Bills and motions before the House. Bill C-51 the Anti-Terrorism Act passed 3rd reading with both the Liberals and Government in support and the NDP opposed. Private Members business this week includes Bill C-637 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation), Bill C-641 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Bill C-356 National Strategy for Dementia Act, Bill C-627 An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and Motion M-591 Ferry services to Prince Edward Island.
For further information on these or any Bills before the House of Commons I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.