The Ontario government spent $793,925 on new advertising out of the budget for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan after cancelling the program, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through a freedom of information request.
The ads promoted enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan, which is an area of federal responsibility, the taxpayers group pointed out. “The auditor general has said that these ads were partisan and self-congratulatory . . .,” said Christine Van Geyn, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Ontario director, in a release that decried several spending decisions by the provincial government.
“But why keep spending money when the government already knows the program is cancelled? This is a political ad buy on the backs of taxpayers, pure and simple.”
A spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Finance told Benefits Canada in an email that the province’s leadership in advocating for improved retirement security became the catalyst for reaching a national consensus on CPP reform. “When we disclosed the costs of the ORPP on July 28, 2016, we were open about the fact that we would be informing Ontarians about the upcoming changes to the CPP through an advertising and marketing campaign,” he wrote.
According to figures released in July, the government had spent $8 million on advertising and market research around the ORPP. It spent a total of $70 million on developing the program, which it scrapped after federal and provincial finance ministers reached an agreement in June to enhance the CPP.
The total costs included developing the plan design and legislation, the establishment of the ORPP Administration Corp., preparations to launch the program, informing Ontarians about the plan and then the contingency costs associated with winding down the administration corporation.
“The government has a responsibility to raise awareness and communicate information about its programs and services,” wrote the spokesperson. “To build awareness of the ORPP, the government released advertisements on television, radio and digital platforms.
“This approach is similar to previous large-scale, integrated advertising and marketing campaigns, such as the [harmonized sales tax].”