Wildrose wants Tories to repay $1M spent on signs

The Opposition says Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative party should be forced to repay more than $1 million in taxpayer money spent on signs touting building projects in the province.

EDMONTON — The Opposition says Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative party should be forced to repay more than $1 million in taxpayer money spent on signs touting building projects in the province.

The Wildrose party says the signs, in Progressive Conservative colours and featuring Premier Alison Redford’s name, are nothing more than partisan politician advertising.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show the government put up 293 blue-and-orange “Building Alberta” signs in 2013.

The material obtained through an access-to-information request shows the average cost was $3,500 per sign.

The signs announce roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure the government is paying for.

Redford has said it’s important to let people know that the government is helping them rebuild following devastating floods in June.

In November, the Wildrose released an email from a senior official in the premier’s office who instructed ministers to make sure the signs were “up and in front of every flood-affected road, bridge, school … literally everything on our infrastructure list.”

The email told ministers to get the signs out quickly and regardless of cost.

“This was never about informing Albertans about anything meaningful,” Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said in a release Thursday. “It was about boosting the premier’s image at taxpayers’ expense.

“The premier needs to apologize for this partisan use of tax dollars, immediately cancel this politically motivated campaign and order her party to pay back the money.”

Anderson also said that “binge spending” on signs is “disgraceful” at a time when the government is cutting programs and funding.

“One million dollars could have done some real good by funding 20 new teachers, or over 30 hip replacement surgeries.”

The Wildrose have needled the government for months over the signs. In one tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt, the party put up its own signs at the legislature to mock the Tories.

Signs in the building’s washrooms reminded users that Redford was also “building Alberta” by replacing urinal pucks and buying toilet paper. Others reminded staff that putting up Christmas lights, replacing lightbulbs, moving dirt and shovelling snow were also acts of building the province.

A Redford spokesman called the Wildrose signs childish.

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