back to top

Bell Media Got A Secret Amount Of Government Money For A Marketing Campaign

Destination Canada refuses to reveal how much government money it's using to pay Bell for a tourism campaign targeting millennials.

Posted on

Canada's tourism commission is refusing to say how much public money it paid Bell in a sole-sourced deal for a poorly understood marketing campaign.

Destination Canada, a Crown corporation, says it and third-party investors have spent a combined $5.8 million on a marketing campaign with Bell encouraging millennials to travel within the country. Bell was the only media company considered for the deal.

But asked how much of that $5.8 million is government money, Destination Canada spokesperson Natasha Langlois said it's a secret.

"Thank you for your request for information about DC’s partnership with Bell Media," Langlois said in an email. "However, due to commercial confidentiality we will not release the terms and conditions of the Bell Media agreement."

"Rather, we let our marketing campaigns speak for themselves and are excited about the Far & Wide Millennial Travel Campaign and the updates that will come later in the year on our Far & Wide site."

In other words: We're not going to tell you how much public money we spent on this single-sourced advertising deal, but look at how nice it looks so far.

The background: Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger recently announced that Destination Canada was launching something called the Millennial Travel Program.

Millennials were like "cool!" until they found out that the so-called program is a big marketing campaign with Bell, not a travel subsidy of any sort.

Playing catch up on RL What's this about a Millennial Travel Program? Thought: free money! Travel! False nobody really knows what's going on

Canadian gov. announces #Millenial Travel Program. Disappointed it's not about giving me cash to go #travel... https://t.co/eAiRnuOMeV

Here's how the government said it would work:

  • There will be a marketing campaign with Bell.
  • That campaign will feature travel packages for within Canada aimed toward millennials.
  • Smaller-sized travel companies will have to pay $5,000 to $25,000 to have their packages advertised.
  • This is for Canada's 150th birthday.

People (like us) were confused.

Wait, is the point of the Canadian Millennial Travel Program to have government money put in to get... companies to pay to advertise?

This 'Millennial Travel Program' would make way more sense if they were doing something about domestic flight prices https://t.co/9UtrFAq4zc

We asked the government a bunch of questions about the cost of this program, why they chose Bell without considering any other companies, and what millennials get out of this.

Destination Canada responded more than a week later. Spokesperson Danielle Vlemmiks justified the sole-sourced contract by saying that Destination Canada's research showed that Bell was "the only national media company with the reach and integration to meet campaign objectives."

"By leveraging Bell Media’s top millennial brands, and their influential talent, we are bringing travel experiences to life for Canadian millennials," she said in an email.

Vlemmiks said the $5.8 million spent on the campaign includes both cash and in-kind contributions from provincial tourism organizations and other partners, such as Parks Canada (a federal government agency) and WestJet. She said the Bell campaign is worth $10 million.

In addition to the amount of public money spent, Destination Canada won't tell us:

  • Who gets the $5,000 to $25,000 travel companies have to pay to be a part of the campaign.
  • What these "in-kind" contributions from partners like Parks Canada (a government agency) and Westjet are.
  • The Bell "brands" that the campaign will use.


Emma Loop is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. PGP fingerprint: 4A39 DD99 953C 6CAF D68C 85CD C380 AB23 859B 0611.

Contact Emma Loop at emma.loop@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.