Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Mr. Wilkinson was unavailable to comment on the apparent spikes in election spending, but a spokesperson said in a statement that ad budgets contrast and expand depending on matters of public interest that arise.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia's Auditor-General plans to meet with the minister in charge of government advertising soon to figure out why the budget for such taxpayer-funded publicity often swings wildly from year to year and appears to spike in years before voters head to the polls.

Carol Bellringer says she's looking forward to meeting with Andrew Wilkinson, the minister in charge of government advertising, some time in the next two weeks to discuss why spending on government ads has appeared to climb significantly ahead of each of the past three provincial elections, before free-falling the year or two following the vote.

"The advertising on public services should remain stable, regardless of whether it's an election year or not," Ms. Bellringer told The Globe and Mail. "If it's important to tell a story in an election year, it's equally important to tell that same story in a non-election year. …It's unusual that the numbers would vary that much and I'd like to know why."

Story continues below advertisement

For example, data compiled by the government shows in the 2010-11 fiscal year, B.C. spent $15-million on such ads, but the bill increased to more than $30-million in each of the next two years, according to data released by the province. There was a provincial election in 2013. The following year, ad spending fell to $7-million.

There was a similar increase in the lead-up to the 2009 election, when ad spending hit $28-million in the 2008-09 fiscal year, an increase of more than 50 per cent from a year earlier. Spending fell to just $3.6-million the following year.

And in the current year, despite only budgeting $8.5-million, the province expects to spend about $16-million in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.

Government ad spending faced renewed scrutiny last week after a pair of Vancouver lawyers launched a lawsuit against the provincial government, on behalf of its citizens, in an attempt to stop the government's pre-election advertising, which their lawsuit alleges unfairly benefits the incumbent Liberal party.

The proposed class-action suit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court, seeks to force the BC Liberals to pay taxpayers back some of the money spent in the past year.

Mr. Wilkinson, a Vancouver MLA and also Minister of Advanced Education, was unavailable to comment on the apparent spikes in election spending, but a spokesperson sent a statement noting ad budgets contrast and expand depending on matters of public interest that arise.

"Over the course of the year, programs and services may be developed or expanded as additional important priorities emerge," the statement said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Wilkinson previously told The Globe that each government ad is vetted by ministry staff, who ensure that it is fact-based, refers to a program requiring participation from the public and is non-partisan.

"Like so many things, the proof is in the pudding of what the public actually see on TV," he said. "I don't apologize for informing people about programs that they have funded with their tax dollars."

He has dismissed the lawsuit as a pre-election political stunt and said his office has created new policies surrounding these ads following recommendations made by the Office of the Auditor-General in 2014.

The Auditor-General said the ministry's policies may have changed, but there is no process in place that allows an independent third party to parse ads for partisanship.

"Can our office go in and take a look if we choose to? Absolutely. At the moment, would it be the highest thing on my list of priorities? No, it would not," said Ms. Bellringer. "I know that isn't very satisfying to somebody's who is disturbed by it, but it does take more than just taking a look at one ad and saying, 'Oh, yes, that ad crosses the line.'"

She said a full audit would take months to complete, so she is looking forward to discussing the matter with the minister.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies