Green party targets use of tax money for political attack billboards

Billboards say ‘blame John Horgan’

VANCOUVER — Green party Leader Andrew Weaver is calling for a ban on the use of taxpayer money for political attack ads after the B.C. Liberals bought billboards blaming Premier John Horgan for a spike in gas prices.

The digital billboards along commuter routes on the Lower Mainland say “Gas prices?” and “Spending more to commute?” followed by “Blame John Horgan.”

It’s not the first time a provincial political party has used its caucus funding for partisan purposes and Weaver says that needs to change.

Green party house leader Sonia Furstenau will bring the issue to the multi-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee to “ensure it considers that a policy be brought in that would no longer allow taxpayer funding of partisan ads.”

What that policy would look like — such as whether it would apply only to caucus funds or to any taxpayer money — would be determined by the committee if it approves the idea.

There’s no law or regulation explicitly prohibiting a party caucus from using its fund for political purposes, Weaver says.

“There should be, but there’s not,” he says.

Weaver took aim at the billboards not only over how they were paid for but also for portraying information that’s “blatantly false.”

It’s misleading to suggest the NDP government is solely responsibly for gas prices that have reached heights of $1.70 per litre on the Lower Mainland when restricted capacity at Washington state refineries is a major factor, he says.

“The whole is worse than the sum of the parts. You have taxpayer money being used and you have incorrect information,” Weaver says.

“Taxpayer money is being used to spread partisan rhetoric that’s clearly wrong. I find it disgraceful.”

Liberal caucus spokeswoman Carlie Pochynok defended the ads, adding that the NDP used its own caucus fund for radio ads attacking Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson in March.

“Every caucus is provided a budget to use as they see fit,” she said. “Our (ads) are basically opposition work that are more public because they’re giant billboards. Our job is to criticize government and hold them to account.”

Pochynok said the Liberals see Horgan as responsible because he hasn’t provided tax relief on gasoline. Expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Horgan has opposed, could also have increased the flow of gas in British Columbia, she added.

Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston said Horgan has appointed his deputy minister to explore regulatory options for relief, but he also noted the government’s carbon tax increase this year only added one cent per litre to the cost of gas.

Offering tax relief may just give oil companies an opportunity to increase prices and eat up the difference, he said.

Ralston acknowledged that the NDP has used its caucus fund for political purposes.

“We do some political advertising with the same money but we tend to focus on the good things the government is doing,” he said.

He said it would be up to an internal committee to determine if the practice should be reviewed.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Red Deer gets $7M from province for an emergency 24/7 homeless shelter

Councillor says the location will be decided through community consultations

‘Finer focus on job creation:’ Alberta government files red-ink budget

EDMONTON — The Alberta budget is counting on oil and gas bouncing… Continue reading

WATCH: Tabling of the 2020 Alberta budget

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is scheduled to reveal the provincial budget at… Continue reading

VIDEO: Grumpy sea lion resists help back to water in Washington state

Crews were able to coax her into a crate to carry her back to water

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Granlund beats buzzer, scores in OT as Preds beat Flames 4-3

Predators 4 Flames 3 (OT) NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators gambled that… Continue reading

Ministers wrap pipeline talks with hereditary chiefs for the day in B.C.

SMITHERS, B.C. — The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en sat down Thursday… Continue reading

Gardening: Taking a break from the winter

Looking for a break from winter and dream of summer without leaving… Continue reading

Ottawa imposes new rules to protect fragile population of right whales

HALIFAX — Canada has rolled out new measures to protect the critically… Continue reading

Canada pumps nearly 900 billion litres of raw sewage into waterways since 2013

OTTAWA — Canada’s old-fashioned city sewer systems dumped nearly 900 billion litres… Continue reading

Federal government in good financial shape, provinces not so much: PBO

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals could add billions of dollars in spending… Continue reading

Ottawa’s LRT line leaves thousands out in the cold during heavy snowstorm

OTTAWA — Many transit riders in Ottawa were left out in the… Continue reading

Most Read