Poilievre won’t apologize for taxpayers’ dollars spent on ‘vanity videos’

Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre won’t apologize for using taxpayer dollars to produce YouTube videos of himself promoting the universal child care benefit.

OTTAWA — Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre won’t apologize for using taxpayer dollars to produce YouTube videos of himself promoting the universal child care benefit.

Poilievre insisted Friday that he’s simply using innovative ways to inform Canadians about the newly enriched and expanded child benefit.

But opposition MPs denounced the “vanity videos” as a new low for a government that has a penchant for producing partisan advertising on the public dime.

And the Canadian Taxpayers Federation agreed.

“The bottom line is that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for partisan advertising masquerading as information-based government advertising,” said Aaron Wudrick, the federation’s federal director.

The latest examples “highlight the need for an independent third party” to vet all government advertising, he added.

One of the videos shows Poilievre explaining the child benefit to shoppers at a children’s consignment clothing sale in his Ottawa riding. It was filmed on a Sunday by two members of the Employment department’s in-house creative production team, which has an annual operating budget of about $50,000.

A departmental spokesman said the Sunday shoot took two hours, which was paid overtime for the two videographers involved. Editing was done in-house during regular work hours.

A second video shows Poilievre, in rolled-up shirt sleeves, talking about the enhanced child benefit as he points to digital graphics explaining the changes.

Poilievre isn’t the only minister appearing in taxpayer-financed YouTube videos. Candice Bergen, minister of state for social development, stars in another video in which she explains what the recent changes to the universal child benefit will mean to various fictional families.

In Wudrick’s view, Bergen’s video is strictly non-partisan dissemination of factual information. But Poilievre’s videos “reference values and anecdotes that go beyond the factual changes in government policy” and amount to partisan spin.

“We believe that the real child-care experts are mom and dad. That’s why we brought in the universal child care benefit way back in 2006,” Poilievre says in one video, praising the prime minister for “putting money back in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.”

“A one-size-fits-all, government-knows-best approach doesn’t work for families,” he says in the other video, echoing an accusation Conservatives like to level against opposition parties.

Government communications policy requires departments to use “all means of communication,” including new technologies, to inform Canadians about government policy, Poilievre’s department noted. And it’s the role of ministers to explain government policies to the public.

But even if the YouTube videos were strictly informational, Wudrick questioned their cost effectiveness, given that there have been fewer than 350 views for either of Poilievre’s videos and just 35 for Bergen’s

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his own team of videographers who supply “exclusive” footage for 24 Seven, a weekly compilation of Harper’s activities posted online. That is also paid for by taxpayers, although the content — including plenty of clips of Harper’s wife, Laureen — is often more promotional than informational.

Harper’s office was forced to apologize last week after 24 Seven posted footage of the prime minister in Iraq and Kuwait that showed the faces of Canadian special forces soldiers, potentially endangering their lives.

In the House of Commons on Friday, NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie accused Poilievre of wasting money having himself filmed as “he skips around his riding promoting the Conservative platform” while thousands of people have lost their jobs.

She demanded to know how much the “partisan, self-promotional videos” cost. She got no answer.

“I make no apologies for informing parents of the expanded universal child care benefit,” Poilievre responded, promising to continue “aggressively” promoting the changes.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau called Poilievre’s defence “a slap in the face of all Canadians who expect accountability” and a reflection of the government’s “supreme arrogance.”

“Either that or he thinks we are stupid or possibly that we do not care. We do care,” Garneau fumed.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read