War of 1812 ads during Olympic television coverage cost $1.64-million


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Government ‘increasing Canadians’ knowledge of the War of 1812 by inviting them to learn about some of the heroes who fought for Canada and helped shape our country,’ says Canadian Heritage minister spokesperson.

Published: Monday, 08/13/2012 5:20 pm EDT
PARLIAMENT HILL—Taxpayers paid $1.64-million for a series of militaristic advertisements Canadian Heritage placed on CTV during its Olympic Games coverage to promote the War of 1812’s 200th anniversary, The Hill Times has learned.

Opposition MPs, who last week criticized the decision by the federal government to place ads promoting a war anniversary during Olympics coverage, further berated the public relations decision when they were informed of the price tag on Monday.

The total cost for War of 1812 advertisements and promotion of the anniversary events is budgeted at $6.5-million over three years, nearly a quarter of the $28-million the government has set aside for the entire project, a spokesperson for Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore (Port Moody-Westwood-Coquitlam, B.C.) told The Hill Times.

New Democrat MPs Malcom Allen (Welland, Ont) and Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, Ont.) in southwestern Ontario, where most of the key land battles took place following the U.S. declaration of war against Great Britain and an invasion of its colony Canada, said the money should have gone toward groups whose anniversary project proposals from their region were rejected.

They also said Mr. Moore’s spokesperson was trying to turn New Democrats against one another after NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Man.) last week criticized the government for placing the ads during Olympic sport competitions that are intended to promote world harmony.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s, Ont.) called the spending “misguided” and said the ads, brief sketches featuring war heroes and titled “the fight for Canada,” were “cheap, cosmetic and superficial.” Ms. Bennettt also said the money should have gone to local events, and criticized the government for not sending any Conservative MPs to attend an Assembly of First Nations event marking First Nation support for Canada during the war. All three opposition MPs were surprised at the amount the government spent on the ads.

“When you think about the War of 1812, especially in a Hamilton context, the battle of Stoney Creek (a British defeat of U.S. forces) obviously played large. For me it was all about paying tribute to our city’s heritage and to boost local tourism. That’s quite different than boosting the government’s visibility through an ad campaign in the Olympics,” Ms. Charlton said.

“Crazy, and that’s a huge amount of money that didn’t go towards developing local tourism industries, local infrastructure, that could have gone to create local community benefit. Wow,” she said in an interview, adding that the government rejected a proposal from a group in her riding for funding to make commemorative 1812 medals.

Mr. Allen, who said the advertising during the Olympics is likely the most expensive air time in televised sports, agreed that the money could’ve been spent better in local communities. “There are a number of events that could have used that additional funding, and events that didn’t get funding could have used that money rather than spending that type of money during the Olympic Games,” he said. “The price point for advertising at the Olympics, there isn’t any higher point unless it’s the Stanley Cup finals. It’s huge.”

Canadian Press reported that on Sunday, Aug. 7, the day Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won a gold medal in the 100-metre final, CTV averaged 2.5 million viewers of its Olympics coverage over 22 hours.

Mr. Allen also disagreed with the militaristic themes the government set for the Olympic advertising, similar to the predominant focus on war that characterizes other government ad campaigns for the anniversary.

“The celebrations in Niagara have been a celebration of 200 years of peace,” Mr. Allen said. “Every event I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many throughout the peninsula, not just in my riding, has been a celebration of 200 years of peace, not a celebration of a war, per se. That’s the one thing, I think, that stands out for all of us in the peninsula, who share a common border, 20 minutes driving in either direction, I can cross the border. For us, it is about 200 years of living in a peaceful way with our neighbours to the south.”

James Maunder, Mr. Moore’ communications director, defended the ads in an email he sent to The Hill Times.

“We are increasing Canadians’ knowledge of the War of 1812 by inviting them to learn about some of the heroes who fought for Canada and helped shape our country,” Mr. Maunder said. “The Olympics are an ideal opportunity to reach many Canadians about what was the fight for Canada.”

opportunity to remind them of our history and the events that led to Canada being able to compete in the Games in the first place. The War of 1812 was a defining moment in our history. We’re proud of our investments to remind Canadians of that history.”

The U.S. and Great Britain reached a peace agreement in December, 1813, but the fighting continued until early 1814 after the U.S. Congress ratified the accord. The U.S. was forced into peace terms, which did not alter any borders between Canada and the U.S. that had existed prior to 1812, after the British poured regular trips into North America after it defeated France following years of war in Europe. A British blockade also had strangled the U.S. economy as the war emptied its treasury.

Mr. Maunder also said the NDP are being “hypocritical” for criticizing the ads, after Mr. Allen and Ms. Charlton had lobbied on behalf of groups in their ridings for support from a $28-million War of 1812 bicentennial fund the government has earmarked for anniversary events.

“The NDP should be joining us in cheering on our athletes and celebrating the events that have made Canada the country it is today,” he said in an email. “Hypocritical attacks like this just demonstrate to more and more Canadians why the NDP are not fit to govern.” The opposition MPs dismissed the comment.

“They’re trying to justify an advertising campaign by referring to an appeal for a proper commemoration of the War in 1812, in a way that has a local community economic development benefit,” said Ms. Charlton. “Everything from Remembrance Day to these kinds of commemorations, we commemorate those who fall in battle and we’re remembering the horror of war and the value of peace.”

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