Green party targets use of tax money for political attack billboards in B.C.

Weaver is calling for a ban on political attack billboards blaming Horgan for a spike in gas prices

Motorists travel over the Alex Fraser Bridge as an electronic billboard paid for by the B.C. Liberal caucus, placing blame for high gas prices on Premier John Horgan is seen in Delta, B.C., on Saturday May 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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.”

READ MORE: John Horgan says spike in gasoline prices is profit-taking, not taxes

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

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RDOS board remuneration, expenses come to $500,000

Costs presented in Statement of Financial Information

Summerland Ornamental Gardens holds fall plant sale

Event will be held Saturday, Sept. 21

Reason to Smile: Tim Hortons cookie campaign benefits school breakfast program

The smile cookie campaign runs Sept. 13 - 22 at participating Tim Hortons from Summerland to Osoyoos

LocoLanding flowers brighten seniors’ day in Penticton

The many flowers that bloom in LocoLanding during the summer brighten the day for seniors

‘It’s almost surreal’: Penticton fire chief, sidekick Sammy recap rescue mission in Bahamas

Chief Larry Watkinson and Sam the disaster dog spent 8 days assisting a search and rescue team

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Vancouver police could be using drones to fight crime by end of year

The police department has already purchased three drones, as well as three others for training

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Okanagan ski racer chosen for grant in end game

Makena Kersey, 18, has called it a career following a gruesome leg injury, but story inspires grant

North Okanagan’s own CSI digging into crime mysteries

Forensic Identification Section a specialized support unit used in various cases

Most Read