Premier Christy Clark at municipal convention in 2014. Her government's 'jobs plan' message has evolved since 2011

BC VIEWS: Harper-style ads carry on here

'Canada's Strongest Economy' ads tout balanced budget, just like Premier Christy Clark's speeches

By now you’ve probably seen the provincial government ads, on TV or Facebook, with cute children lined up for a footrace at their school track meet.

They are interspersed these days with ads urging people to sign up for trades training, an extension of the “B.C. Jobs Plan” blitz that surrounded Premier Christy Clark before the 2013 election.

Not yet on TV, but waiting in the wings, are exciting new exemptions from B.C.’s property transfer tax (for buyers of new homes only) and expanded Medical Services Plan premium assistance, which will be pitched mainly to seniors. Both measures were announced in the February budget.

That’s public service advertising, explained a stone-faced Andrew Wilkinson, minister responsible for the wave of government ads that will crest next spring. The track meet spot is to remind parents of kids born after 2006 that they can receive a $1,200 grant by setting up their children’s Registered Education Savings Plan at an eligible bank or credit union.

The TV spot for the education grant has a confident narrator speaking as the plucky multicultural kids begin their sprint: “B.C.’s plan to protect Canada’s Strongest Economy is working. Balanced Budget 2016 means we can keep taxes low and invest in B.C. families.”

They used a male narrator, I suppose so it wouldn’t sound too much like a Christy Clark campaign speech broadcast at taxpayer expense.

[See 30-second TV ad below]

This grant program is a leftover from the Gordon Campbell years, when the province banked $1,200 per child from its natural gas windfall on behalf of kids born after 2007. The Clark government expanded eligibility by a year and has made a series of announcements as the money was doled out directly to parents.

The ads are working, Wilkinson assured reporters. Monitoring has shown a “substantial increase” in parents signing up to receive the grant.

Two cheers. With the help of sophisticated marketing, the B.C. government is able to give money away with brisk efficiency, as they did with the rebate to parents in the midst of the last teachers’ strike.

The Trudeau Liberal government has begun to rein in federal government advertising, which grew to new heights with the Stephen Harper government’s “Economic Action Plan,” the model for Clark’s blue-tinted “Jobs Plan” series.

Federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison has started with a ban on taxpayer-funded ads in the three months preceding a scheduled federal election. His “interim” measures also include banning the use of party colour schemes in taxpayer-funded ads, and promoting programs that don’t yet exist.

Wilkinson declared that the B.C. Liberals had not stooped to that level, as the Harper Tories did with a proposed program to retrain unemployed people.

“Our advertisements are fact-based,” he said. “They’re based on existing programs that have been budgeted, and they’re designed to engage British Columbians.”

The Trudeau government has not yet delivered on its election promise to appoint an independent advertising commissioner, to work out of the federal Auditor General’s office. It’s unfortunate that yet another expansion of the bureaucracy is needed to keep politicians’ hands out of the till, but we seem to have reached that point in Canada.

There have been no such reforms proposed for B.C., or as it is currently known, “Canada’s Strongest Economy.” At least we’ve been spared the bill for boasting about “The Best Place On Earth” in recent years.

The B.C. NDP has advocated an Auditor General-run system for keeping partisan politics out of government advertising.

For the second year, the NDP bill to compel that was tabled and ignored by the government.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sentencing hearing began for Joel Conway who was convicted of break and enter and sexual assault last year. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Saanich man sentenced to three years in prison for breaking into woman’s home and sexually assaulting her

Crown is asking Joel Conway be sentenced to four years for both charges, to be served concurrent

Victoria fire crews quickly extinguished a multi-unit apartment building fire near Beacon Hill Park on Oct. 30. (Courtesy of Chief Paul Bruce)
Victoria fire crews extinguish multi-unit fire near Beacon Hill Park

Two people have suffered non-life-threatening injuries

Blanshard Street, between Burdett Avenue and Douglas Street, will be closed to traffic Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 while crews repave the road. (City of Victoria)
TRAFFIC ALERT: Section of Blanshard Street will be closed this weekend

Crews will be repaving Blanshard Street between Burdett Avenue and Douglas Street

Victoria police are asking for help locating 14-year-old, high-risk missing youth, Anabella Lilly. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating high-risk missing youth

Police say the circumstances under which 14-year-old Anabella Lilly went missing are ‘high-risk’

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read