Public deserves to know the truth about publicly funded Liberal pre-election ads

VICTORIA – The Liberal government needs to clear the air about where the money is coming from for their pre-election ad blitz, and about where it’s being spent, say New Democrats.

“The Liberal government told the public that the current pre-election ad campaign we’re seeing all over TV and hearing on the radio would be $15 million total, and two-thirds would be used overseas to help lure investment,” said New Democrat MLA Carole James. “That figure has become increasingly difficult to believe.”

In April in the legislature, Jobs Minister Pat Bell said the current ad campaign would cost $15 million overall. He said the first $5 million had already been spent domestically, “and the majority of the $10 million that we'll be spending this year will be internationally and not domestically.”

But James pointed out that since April, there have been endless ads aired during prime time on TV and radio, and placed prominently in newspapers and online, plus several 90-second spots featuring Premier Clark aired during the news hour on a major network.

“The truth is the Liberal government has been blowing millions of taxpayers’ dollars on domestic ads since April, with no sign of it ending any time soon,” said James. “The public deserves to know whether the Liberal government was misleading them when they said the money would be spent internationally, whether they are spending millions more than the $15 million claimed, or both.”

“This week the Liberal government will release the next quarterly report of the province’s finances, which would be a perfect opportunity for them to finally clear the air about where the money's coming from, and where it's going.”

James said the Liberals should show detailed documentation of all ad spending on the government’s dime, including where they were aired, how much they cost, and who the intended target was.

The Liberal government did the same thing in 2005, when they wouldn’t tell British Columbians how much they spent on publicly funded pre-election ads. In that case, the government surpassed their own advertising budget by 50 per cent, spending $14 million on feel good “Best Place on Earth” ads designed to promote the governing party. The true cost of the advertising overrun was only discovered in the Public Accounts that were released following the election.

“These ads contain no useful information or provide any public service,” said James. “The current pre-election ads aired by the Liberal government have only one purpose, and that’s to gain popularity before an election.”

It’s time for a new and better government with new and better priorities. Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe public dollars are better spent on investments in education and skills training, to reduce inequality, and to improve health care, one practical step at a time.