Premier Christy Clark this week criticized BC Ferries for advertising to British Columbians, something the NDP says her government has itself done extensively.
"I'm glad they're not doing it anymore," Clark said when asked Feb. 13 about the $500,000 BC Ferries spent in 2010-2011 to advertise at Rogers Arena during the Vancouver Canucks hockey season.
"In British Columbia, all those of us who use the ferries love the service, and if we want to get to the beautiful islands, we know we can do it on BC Ferries," Clark said. "They don't need to advertise to us."
She said $500,000 is a lot of money for a company that should be focused on "keeping fares low and services as high as we possibly can."
Clearly times are tough at BC Ferries. Over the past year the government has consulted the public on where to cut $18.9 million through service reductions. Fares have risen steadily since the company was restructured in 2003 from a Crown corporation to a government-owned private company.
Clark, however, made clear the same principle applies to other public bodies as well. "To me, I think we all shake our heads a little bit when we see agencies of government spending money advertising to customers that they already have," she said. "It doesn't make any sense."
Clark spent millions
"Can I stop laughing after about 10 minutes?" said Mike Farnworth, the NDP's finance critic.
"That really is a bit rich coming from a premier that spent $16 million of taxpayers money brazenly, blatantly, without any apology to advertise a phony jobs plan in a run-up to an election," he said. "Now somehow she's criticizing BC Ferries for spending a half a million dollars? That's some nerve."
In the year after BC Ferries was advertising at Canucks games, a Tyee freedom of information request showed, the provincial government spent some $3.16 million with media outlets to advertise the BC Jobs Plan directly to British Columbians.
Clark launched the jobs plan in 2011 with a week of announcements where the premier characterized herself as the province's number one salesperson.
The spending was despite assurances in 2011 that the bulk of the promotion for Clark's job strategy would be done outside the province. "The real focus of the advertising campaign won't be in B.C., it will be abroad," then jobs, tourism and innovation minister Pat Bell told The Tyee in Nov. 2011. "It's really intended to attract investment internationally into new projects that can add value for British Columbians."
However, the records showed no spending to advertise the job strategy outside B.C., but a large amount within the province.
Partisan point: NDP
The campaign included $2.3 million to run television ads on stations in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Terrace, Kitimat, Dawson Creek and Kamloops and another $72,250 on multicultural stations CHNM/OMNI and Fairchild TV.
There was $500,000 for radio ads on B.C. stations and $94,000 for a series of full-page, full-colour ads in the Vancouver Sun.
The government also spent $67,480.50 on online advertising targeting "working moms" in B.C. that ran on websites Vancouvermom.ca, Canada.com's Lifestyle Network, Best Health Magazine, CanadianLiving.com, the Family Channel, Home Decision Makers, MSN's Lifestyle Channel, Yahoo's Parenting With Kids, The Globe and Mail, Modern Moms, Divine.ca, Run of Family and Today's Parents.
The advertisements included nothing British Columbians needed to know, said Farnworth. "It was blatant partisan election designed to position the government in the run-up to the election," he said. "That's all it was."
He concluded, "It was a government gorging itself on taxpayers' dollars for partisan interests at the trough at its worst."
Clark then, it would appear, doesn't want government agencies to waste money advertising to a captive audience, unless she's the one booking the campaign.