Canadian Manufacturing

Union slams Ottawa’s use of taxpayer dollars on energy advertising

Claims Natural Resources Canada used $4-million from "special reserve fund" in 2012 while cutting jobs

OTTAWA—A union representing federal employees claims to have evidence Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) used millions of public dollars on advertising during a time the department was cutting jobs and programs.

The Natural Resources Union (NRU), which represents roughly 1,200 workers at the federal department, alleges NRCan used $4-million from a “special reserve fund” to pay for broadcast commercials “to sell Canadians on” a proposed resource budget in 2012.

At the same time, according to the union, NRCan eliminated “programs that directly assisted Canadians,” and about 500 jobs with them.

One of those programs was the ecoEnergy Retorfit—Homes incentive, which provided grants of up to $5,000 for homeowners investing to make their homes more energy-efficient.

“Programs that directly benefited you and me were slashed,” union president Michael Sargent said in a release. “Environmental assessment programs and research libraries that ensured we were good stewards of our resources were terminated.”

The union head said he is also concerned by the existence of a so-called special reserve fund.

Sargent is questioning how much public money is in the fund, and whether other government initiatives have been funded with the cash “instead of directly supporting protection of Canada’s” natural resource base.

“At the end of the day, the only ones benefitting are the large businesses determined to exploit Canada’s resource potential in the interest of corporate financial gain,” he said.

According to reports last year, NRCan spent $9-million spent in 2012 and just $237,000 in in 2010-11.

It is on the books for $40-million in advertising at home and abroad in 2013-14.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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