maureen-bader-080905

Pre-election spending announcements are being used to buy votes, says Maureen Bader of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. ((CBC))

The Conservative government made spending announcements totalling $8.8 billion in the three months before the election was called on Sunday, the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation (CTF) says.

"This is not money being thrown around on the eve of an election," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said recently, noting Parliament had approved all the expenditures.

But the announcements — the bigger ones include Quebec infrastructure, car plants in Ontario, language programs, royalties for Nova Scotia — drew the scorn of the CTF's B.C. director, Maureen Bader.

                                                         Spending 'gems' the CTF found
 Project  Amount  Announced
 Newfoundland & Labrador ski club  $297,000  July 17
 IMAX Great Lakes movie  $500,000  July 20
 P.E.I. ice cream company, COWS Inc.  $350,000  July 23
 Shag Harbour, N.S., festival marking 1967 UFO sighting  $2,000  Aug. 5
 Covered Bridge Potato Chip Co. (N.B.) facilities   $528,000  Sept. 4
 Source: Canadian Taxpayers Foundation

The money  "is really being used to buy our votes and that's something really quite despicable. And all these governments seem to do it," she said.

Harper said the spending won't put the government finances into a deficit and will be used for "clear and affordable objectives."

Bader isn't convinced.

"In the budget that was just recently passed, spending was supposed to increase by 3.4 per cent, but in fact it's increased by over eight per cent," Bader said. 

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion also doesn't see it as careful spending. The Conservatives "are the largest-spending government in Canadian history," Dion said.

Harper had a similar view of Liberal spending in the runup to the 2004 election.

"I know what they're trying to do," he said. "They're obviously trying to buy the election."

Conservative commitments total nearly $4 million an hour, Bader said, but under Liberal leader Paul Martin, it was worse: The Liberals promised 11 times as much, $44 million an hour, before they were defeated in the January 2006 election.