NDP shells out more than $5 million to sell Albertans on climate change plan

The Opposition Wildrose says the NDP government is putting good money toward a bad cause as it spends more than $5 million to advertise its sweeping climate change plan.

Premier Rachel Notley’s office confirmed Monday the province is spending $4.4 million on television, print, radio, online and cinema advertising for its plan, which includes a broad-based carbon tax coming into effect in 2017, an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power and a cap on oilsands emissions.

That amount spent on the new campaign, which runs through September, comes on top of the $700,000 initially allocated last fall to publicize the plan after it was launched, spokesman Matt Williamson said in an email.

The Wildrose has been no fan of the NDP climate plan, and MLA Todd Loewen said the advertising expenditure “is just making a bad situation worse.”

“This is the highest-spending government ever, and they continue to waste more money,” said Loewen, the Opposition’s environment critic who had called Monday for the advertising costs to be released.

“If Canadans were buying this carbon tax thing, the government wouldn’t have to pay so much to sell it to them.”

With stagnant oil prices, the NDP government is projecting a record $10.4-billion shortfall in its 2016-17 provincial budget, which also had a $750,000 advertising campaign.

No one from the NDP government was made available for an interview.

In a statement, Williamson said it is the government’s responsibility to share information about how the climate plan will “diversify our economy, create new jobs and improve the quality of the air we breathe.”

“The paid media campaign is intended to inform Canadans about how the plan works, how it affects them, what supports are available and what it will accomplish,” he said.

But Loewen said from the advertising he has seen there is little useful information for Canadans.

The NDP’s plan is intended to both lower Canada’s high per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against climate warming and to help the province win outside support for stalled pipeline projects that will open new markets for its energy resources.

The incoming carbon levy on heating and transportation fuels has attracted the most attention so far in the intense debate around the climate strategy. The government says 60 per cent of Canada households will receive rebates, but the opposition accuses it of lowballing the costs of the tax.

The disclosure on advertising spending follows the partial leak of an internal government analysis from last fall that projected the climate plan would lead to 15,000 fewer jobs, $4 billion in lost household income and economic growth declining one to 1.5 per cent by 2022.

The government says the report was inaccurate because it was based on the assumption that half the revenue from the carbon tax would go to general revenues instead of being reinvested and didn’t take into account mitigation measures such as the planned refunds.

Opposition parties have called on the government to release whatever economic analysis it has done on its plan.

Loewen said it is ironic the government is advertising its climate plan while there are major unanswered questions over the economic cost of the strategy.




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