Watchdog Group Examines Canadian Government's $6.7M in Promo Spending, Finds … Nothing, Really
Members of Canada's Parliament ordered a breakdown of the Canadian government's promo spending between January 2017 and February 2019, and found that it had purchased items like rubber ducks, pens and lanyards totaling about $6.7 million (about $4.5 million USD) over that span.
According to iPolitics (which has detailed Canada's federal promo spending in the past), a lot of that promo spending went toward products that advertised government organizations and were handed out at conferences, public events, job fairs and more.
The report also detailed that the promotional items included "material targeting children to promote the sciences and space exploration, recruitment for the military, and awards or worker appreciation gifts handed out within the public service."
Excuse us for a moment while we clutch our pearls at the very thought of trying to get kids excited about science and space exploration.
Other items included:
- 480 pairs of "Ag More Than Ever" socks for $10,000 total
- 50 flashlights totaling $84.87
- 1,000 hats for $28,000
"Like any other commercial entity in the competitive financial market, we promote our business," Farm Credit Canada (FCC) spokesperson Éva Larouch told iPolitics. "FCC is strategic in the use of promotional items as part of our marketing efforts. Items are intended for customers and prospective customers, and offered to support and strengthen FCC's customer experience efforts.
The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) spent more than $637,000 on items such as olive oil as a client gift (worth $66 a piece), $35,000 on golf balls, about 4,000 BDC journal and pen sets for $31,000, 1,220 socks ($10.50 per pair), and more than 9,000 tins of mints.
"We regularly offer promotional items at a variety of events to increase awareness [of BDC's services]," BDC spokesperson Jean Philippe Nadeau told iPolitics. "[BDC] is a Crown corporation that is run as a business."
The iPolitics story even notes that "almost all items were purchased at seemingly reasonable and expected prices," except for 160 pens purchased by FCC for $12,555 total. And, even then, the $78.47 per-unit price is right in line with what luxury pens purchased as gifts would typically cost.
Obviously, $6.7 million is a lot of money if you're just considering the raw number, but when you look at it within the context of Canada's federal budget, it is a drop in a very large bucket. Canada's 2018 budget was $338.5 billion, making that promo spending 0.0019179 percent of its budget.
Critics like Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, say that the government could still allocate the money more responsibly.
"If [the BDC has] a niche and are supported by the government, they're not subject to market forces the way commercial banks are," Wudrick said. "Do they need to be doing this sort of thing?"
He also called the price point of FCC's pens "outrageous."
"If the per-item amount is way more than the average person wouldn't find on the internet in five minutes, you're probably spending too much," he said.
But, again, if a bunch of $78 pens are the worst offense in the grand scheme of an entire government's promo spending, this is minimal. There's nothing to see here, really. All it shows is how quickly some still are to decry promotional products spending as wasteful, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.