Since they won in October, Tories have issued 1,582 funding announcements, totalling $69 billion

Whether it's Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announcing the rollout of the $8.3 billion Canada Skills and Transition Strategy or Treasury Board President Vic Toews trying to score a couple of political points with a $1,000 grant for a veterans project in Winnipeg, the federal Conservative government has been more active than ever spending money in its first year in office, rolling out more than 1,580 spending announcements since it was elected in October, 2008.

Canwest News Service has tracked and logged each press release. In our database, we note the date of the press release, the minister in whose name it was issued, the department in whose named it was issued, the MP who is quoted in the release and is trying to take the political credit for the spending, a brief summary of the spending initiative, and the jurisdiction from which the release was issued. (We try to live-tweet each spending announcement. If you're interested, tune in by following @ottawaspends)

Press releases are not issued every time the federal government spends money – no release goes out every 2 weeks when Ottawa issues paycheques to its employees, for example — but press releases are issued when the government of the day wants to make a point about something or draw the public's (and media) attention to a particular funding announcement.

The point of the database, to be clear, is not to settle debates on whether stimulus money is actually flowing (I know of no public database that actually tracks that). And we do not differentiate between old money, new money, money for this year, or money to be spent over the next five years. Instead, it's a useful tool to help look at what region the government is focusing on in any given time period; what ministers and MPs are most active in handing out cash; and if whether or not there are any discernable trends in the government's spending patterns.

For example, earlier this year, we used the database to make the case that Conservative ridings seem to be getting way more attention from a federal government program set up to help seniors groups than ridings held by anyone else. Indeed, of the 50 or so announcements we tracked, all but one was benefitted a Tory riding.

Now, some (like NDP MP Olivia Chow) will ask if, with this flurry of announcements, if there are actual “shovels in the ground”. This database can provide no substantive answer to that question beyond anecdotal evidence that it would seem to me that projects are underway. For example, on August 28, Senator Fabian Manning, acting on behalf of ACOA Minister Keith Ashfield, said that the town of Carbonear would have $183,000 to fix up the local swimming pool. I suspect that Carbonear, now that the money is committed, will be getting to this project toot sweet.

Similarly, I'll bet the town of Elbow, Sask. is likely to move quickly to upgrade the local fitness centre using $3,333 worth of federal funds. And I suspect the urgent need for a new primary school in Wabaseemoon First Nation in northern Ontario means that, now that the feds have publicly committed $25 million, they'll be building it mighty quick.

Still, as I said: We cannot say from this particular research project if the government is delivering as it said it would but we can report on the following:

  • Since Oct. 14, 2008, when Stephen Harper's Conservatives won their second minority government, the federal government has issued 1,582 press releases announcing or committing to spending projects totalling $68,866,889,002.
  • The five biggest by spending commitment:
    1. $8.3 billion – 13-Mar-09 Diane Finley HRSDC Canada Skills and Transition Strategy Ottawa ON
    2. $5 billion – 08-Jul-09 Peter MacKay DND New Land Combat Vheicles Oromocto NB
    3. $4 billion – 20-Dec-08 Tony Clement IC PM and Premier McGuinty Announce Financial Support for the Auto Industry Toronto ON
    4. $ $2.9 billion 23-Dec-08 John Baird INFC Canada funds Ontario Infrastructure Ottawa ON
    5. $2 billion 13-Mar-09 Diane Finley HRSDC Municipal Infrastructure Loans Ottawa ON
  • The five smallest by spending commitment:
    1. 14-Nov-08 Greg Thompson VAC Government Helps Groups Honour Veterans in Manitoba Winnipeg MB $1,000
    2. 04-May-09 Diane Finley HRSDC Cercle de Fermieres de Courcelles seniors capital projects Courcelles QC $1,530
    3. 10-Jun-09 Diane Finley HRSDC For hotel to hire disabled person to work the kitchen Keremeos BC $1,560
    4. 14-Nov-08 Greg Thompson VAC Government Helps Groups Honour Veterans in Prince Edward Island Charlottetown PE $1,600
    5. 24-Aug-09 Diane Finley HRSDC 1st cheque presented for apprenticeship incentive program Surrey BC $2,000
  • Ministers handing out the most money:
    1. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley: $22,122,676,808
    2. Transport and Infrastructure Minister John Baird $13,395,199,820
    3. Industry Minister Tony Clement $10,516,964,544
    4. Defence Minister Peter MacKay $7,586,500,000
    5. Public Works Minister Christian Paradis $3,012,257,210
  • Ministers issuing the most press releases:
    1. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley 295
    2. Heritage Minister James Moore 228
    3. Western Economic Development Corporation Lynn Yelich 187
    4. Canada Economic Development for Quebec Region Denis Lebel 171
    5. Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Ashfield 152

One other point here: The Hill Times recently reported that, since Parliament broke for its summer recess on June 22, the government had made (as of Aug 24), about $2 billion in spending announcements. I'm not sure what dataset the Hill Times is using but our dataset shows something remarkably different:On or after June 22, 2009, the federal government has issued 538 press releases with more than $10 billion in funding commitments. More than half of that was $6.15 billion for the purchase of new combat vehicles for the army and Chinook helicopters for the Air Force. But even without those two monster defence contracts, the government, is at nearly $4-billion in spending commitments over the summer.

2 thoughts on “Since they won in October, Tories have issued 1,582 funding announcements, totalling $69 billion”

  1. Certainly is a lot of money…….I've been tracking and noticed the Industrial Research Assistance Program has been getting a lot of press releases. Why are giving money to businesses so they can turn a profit later on?? Seems to be corporate welfare but on a smaller scale. Just because it's not a $10 billion bailout doesn't mean it is any less wrong.

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