Sunday, December 02, 2012

Our Taxpayer Dollars at Work: Advertising the BC Liberals

Ads should be first items on B.C. Liberal government's chopping block

The red ink is rising so high and so fast at the B.C. legislature that I wonder if it's already completely swamped the brains of the people in charge.

How else to explain the government's insistence on running a campaign of saturation feel-good advertising — at the same time they plead poverty and warn about looming spending cuts and tax hikes?

Don't they realize these TV commercials — self-praising the government for doing such a great job on the economy — are driving people crazy?

I pointed that out to Finance Minister Mike de Jong on Wednesday, and got a dismissive response in return.

"Yeah, I've heard some of those observations," he said, before turning away.

Pressed on the point, de Jong conceded the $15-million ad blitz is unpopular with many, especially since the ads seemed designed to help the Liberals before the May election.
"I've heard them described as partisan," he said. "I understand the controversy."

But he also said the ads are "appropriate" because they're "communicating with British Columbians about the state of their province."

So the multimillion-dollar ad buy will continue — at the same time the deficit is ballooning and the government considers tough measures to deal with it.

De Jong announced Wednesday that this year's deficit has just shot up another $328 million, and now stands at nearly $1.5 billion.

Despite that, de Jong and Premier Christy Clark all but guaranteed the Liberals will balance the books early in the new year.

In fact, de Jong said his Feb. 19 budget will likely boast a surplus of around $200 million, because the Liberals want a big enough cushion to convince everyone the books are truly balanced going into the May election.

So just how will the Liberals go from a $1.5-billion deficit to a $200-million surplus in just over two months?

"We're not in a position to rule anything in or out," de Jong replied, adding spending cuts and tax increases are all being considered to eliminate the red ink.

And as for breaking the piggy bank to suck up to voters?

"There is virtually no room for any kind of big-time, pre-election spending extravaganza," he said.

But there is room to run brazenly partisan ads on your TV set every night. If the government was serious about getting its deficit under control, the ad campaign would be the first thing on the chopping block.

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