Imagine this: you’re sitting down for a nice quiet evening of television, maybe watching the hockey game, and an advertisement comes on for the model of pickup truck you’ve wanted to buy for months.
The deal, coming from one particular dealer, is thousands and thousands of dollars less than you’ve ever seen the truck priced before, and it’s coming with all sorts of accessories: thousands in free upgrades, including trim packages, free four-wheel-drive and a box liner.
The next morning, you rush down to the dealership — you don’t even care about the colour anymore, you just want to get your deposit in and get one of those trucks.
But when you set foot on the showroom floor, looking at one of those trucks right there in front of you, the salesman tells you there’s no such deal.
You’d be furious: you’d call the provincial government and the federal government and Canada’s advertising standards council: after all, the council’s code expressly says “Advertisements must not misrepresent the consumer’s opportunity to purchase the goods and services at the terms presented.” Action, you’d think, would be taken.
And the next night, you see the ad again and again and again, still making the same false claims. You wouldn’t be angry, you’d be fast on the way to incandescent.
So why is it that when the federal government advertises a brand-new job-creation program that doesn’t even exist, people seem willing to shrug and say, “That’s politics for you”?
Because that’s exactly what the Harper government did: last spring, it spent $2.5 million advertising a program, the Canada Job Grant, even though the program did not exist. (The federal government announced it, but has not come to agreements with the provinces to actually operate the program.)
Some people were so angry they actually complained to the advertising standards council, which, after the ad campaign was over, did find there were problems. This appears to be what the council found: “To council, the commercial conveyed the general impression that the services were universally accessible. In fact, they would not be accessible for some time. Council, therefore, concluded that the commercial omitted relevant information. The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because the advertisement was permanently withdrawn before council met to adjudicate the complaint.”
This, from a government led by a prime minister whose very first question in the House of Commons as opposition leader was to ask for a halt to rampant federal government advertising.
And, lo and behold, there’s a new set of federal ads on the television just this week, once again claiming that grants are available for jobs. In fact, a woman talks about receiving a grant. Well, believe that if you want, but once bitten, twice shy.
And something else.
Just to make the point clear: fraud is unacceptable, no matter who commits it.