Opinion

BC Liberals' Ad Nausea

Christy Clark propaganda starts here, with $15 million BC government ad campaign.

By Bill Tieleman 20 Nov 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Taxpayers are left to wonder how millions on pro-government ads could have been better spent. TV watcher photo via Shutterstock.

"Those are very partisan ads. They should be bought and paid for by the Liberal Party of B.C." -- CKNW host Bill Good, Nov. 16, on B.C. government advertising

Canada doesn't "start here" in British Columbia, despite what government television ads claim -- but Premier Christy Clark's propaganda campaign sure does.

The B.C. Liberals are ruining TV watching and radio listening with an endless $15 million taxpayer-funded parade of ads that are not only misleading and wasteful but also that we are paying for!

Enough!

All British Columbians want our economy to grow, our industries to prosper and our citizens to find good jobs.

But the only positions these ridiculous "B.C. Jobs Plan" ads create are in advertising agency boardrooms and Clark's own office!

Selling cynicism

It's the worst kind of politics -- and not just because it offends taxpayers who see a government spending $15 million that could be used to help children at risk or reduce hospital emergency room overcrowding or improve crime prevention.

No, it's even more sickening because it makes people even more cynical about elected representatives when government actually has a critical role to help those in need.

That's one lousy way to further reduce already declining participation in our democratic process -- where B.C. had a depressing 51 per cent turnout in the 2009 provincial election.

The ads are not only unnecessary; they're also untrue.

Sun Media columnist David Akin pointed that out, saying Clark's claim that B.C. created more jobs than any other province in the last year was "demonstrably false" and her other stats were "pretty wobbly too."

"Statistics Canada, said right here on Oct. 5, the most recent and up-to-date snapshot of the country's job creation numbers, that 'over the last year' in B.C., there are 44,700 more full-time jobs, 15,100 fewer part-time jobs for a net gain of 29,500 more jobs. Where on earth does Clark get 57,000 new jobs created?" Akin wrote.

It's also hard to believe B.C. has a great "Skills and Training Plan" when up to 2,000 miners will come to the province as Temporary Foreign Workers -- because the government had no response to its own task force report calling for miner training four years ago.

Doing government 'differently'

What's worse is a premier who just doesn't get it.

Clark was recently asked by the Kamloops Daily News about criticism of her $15 million ad campaign and responded this way:

"It's about content. What we're talking about in the advertising is all fact-based. So we talk about the jobs plan, we try to engage people in the jobs plan because one of the things that we have to do as we're building government policy is get the opinions and the best thinking of the people of the province," Clark said.

"So, I said I was going to do government differently. One of the things we need to is we really need to listen to people and engage them in their own government," she concluded.

Is that how you "do government differently" -- by personally appearing in some of the 90-second TV ads?

By spending taxpayers' own money to tell them you are doing a great job?

Gagging

And the sheer hypocrisy is breathtaking.

This government spending oodles of money to promote itself is the same one that tried to defend its gag law that prohibited third party advertising before provincial elections -- until the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected its legislation. Again.

It's also the same government that spent $6 million in a failed advertising effort to convince taxpayers in last year's binding referendum that the Harmonized Sales Tax was a brilliant idea.

Their advertising policy has gotten so offensive that even longtime B.C. Liberal supporters have had it.

Martyn Brown -- former chief of staff to ex-B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell -- is criticizing the ads.

On Shaw Cable's Voice Of B.C. last week he told host Vaughn Palmer that the $15 million ad budget is: "About the same price in total on environmental protection as we’re spending on these ads."

"I think first of all we should remember that every penny of that money is borrowed," Brown added. "We're going into debt to pay for those ads, so they better be worth it."

Martyn Brown's bright idea

Brown has a suggestion that I've made before to solve the problem: require opposition approval for government ads.

"Refer all major proposed government ad campaigns to an all-party committee that can scrutinize and approve or reject those expenditures, and make public that information as soon as any ad campaign goes public," Brown wrote in an opinion piece last month.

If the official opposition agrees that it's worthwhile information for the public to see, hear or read -- then go with it. If taxpayers disagree, both parties will hear about it equally.

Cynics will rightly note that Brown had 10 years as Campbell's top political staffer and was involved in every major government ad campaign but never implemented his own idea -- fair enough criticism.

But that doesn't make it a bad idea.

And Clark would be smart to realize that Canada doesn't start here -- anger starts here when a wasteful government spends our money to advertise itself for political advantage.  [Tyee]

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