Opinion Column

Can you tell difference between 'non-partisan' taxpayer-funded government ads and BC Liberal Party ads?

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

A screenshot from a BC government television advertisement.

A screenshot from a BC government television advertisement.

“The taxpayers of British Columbia should not have to pay for communications that are of a partisan political nature.” - BC Auditor General report, 1996

Can you tell the difference between the $15 million in “non-partisan” BC government ads paid for by taxpayers this fiscal year – and BC Liberal Party partisan ads?

The television airwaves are flooded with government ads titled “Our Opportunity Is Here” but they really are blatant opportunism from Premier Christy Clark, because they promote February’s budget, housing and training programs and more with your money – even though the BC election is under 60 days away.

It’s totally shameless spending of taxpayer dollars to boost the BC Liberal Party – and illegal in many places – but not here, even though BC’s independent Auditor General has repeatedly called for regulations to ban partisan government ads.

Safire’s New Political Dictionary Partisan defines partisan as “placing party advantage above the public interest,” the 1996 Auditor General report states – and that defines these ads perfectly.

But take this political Pepsi vs. Coke test and see if you can tell the difference between government and BC Liberal Party ads:

“Despite economic challenges around the world, BC’s plan to lead Canada is getting results. More British Columbians are working than ever before,” says the first ad.

States the second ad: “Our economy once again is leading the nation. More British Columbians are working than ever before.”

Hard to tell isn’t it? But only the second ad features Christy Clark’s ear-to-ear grinning face on screen and voice – that’s the BC Liberal Party ad. The first is a government ad.

Other ads promote the BC government in flattering terms. And on Global BC’s 6 p.m. news on March 6 there were four different government ads worth about $40,000 – along with the BC Liberal ad.

There should be no question that the government ads are completely partisan – and should not be allowed to air anytime, let alone with an election in eight weeks!

But Christy Clark doesn’t care – and she thinks you don’t either.

Or perhaps the BC Liberals are taking a big risk because their polling makes them very nervous and they need to spend millions of taxpayer money to pump up Clark even though voters could make them pay for it on election day.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman