Government Departments Spent Around $100K on Sponsored Content in 2020 and 2021

Government Departments Spent Around $100K on Sponsored Content in 2020 and 2021
The Senate of Canada building in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Matthew Horwood

Five governmental departments or agencies spent a combined $92,600 to publish sponsored content in publications between 2020 and 2021, according to recently released government documents.

The documents were provided in response to a request by Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett.

The highest amount was spent by the Canadian Heritage during this time period, with $48,106.50 spent on online sponsored articles, as well as ads in online and print media.  The government document doesn’t describe the content of the sponsored articles.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which reports to the Canadian Heritage, spent $7,729.20 in 2021 in sponsored content. The agency says the content was meant to inform Canadians about the CRTC’s decisions related to its mandate and provide other information.

“The articles are intended to help inform Canadians about one of the CRTC’s decisions relating to the wireless market, as well as consumer codes for communications services, the role of the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, how Canadians can keep their phone numbers when they change providers,” the agency said. “The articles also provide general information on cellphone plans and an encouragement to shop around to obtain the best value.”

Global Affairs Canada was the next highest-spending department, with $14,842.55 spent on sponsored content in 2020 and 2021. The department spent $7,113.35 in 2020 on a media package “as part of a larger overall communications plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” This included three news articles and a 60-second radio spot.  The department spent another $7,729.20 on a similar media package the next year.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) spent a combined $12,960 in 2020 and 2021 to an external company to craft sponsored content. The agency said this was done to “amplify its messaging in order to reach Canadians that it would not normally have access to through its own channels.”

“The purpose of these articles was to inform Canadians of all the tools available to them so that they can claim benefits, including COVID benefits, learn about taxes, and access resources to help them file their taxes,” the CRA said.

The Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada, which reports to the Department of Justice, also spent $8,961.60 between 2020 and 2021 to publish articles written by government employees.