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

Vernon’s Fulton Maroons prep for playoffs with romp over Mustangs

High School Rugby: Fulton beats Penticton rivals 48-7; rematch today (Tuesday), 4 p.m., Grahame Park

Vernon gears up for Bike to Work and School week

Bike to Work and School Week runs from Monday, May 27 – Sunday, June 2

Vernon tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Electric cars gaining popularity in Vernon

Dealership sells five in one day, EV car show coming to town

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy

Environment Canada is calling for a similar day tomorrow.

Marriage proposal on the big screen at Enderby drive-in

Kelowna man gets engaged in front of hundreds to Vernon sweetheart

On-duty Vancouver police officer facing dangerous driving charges

Few details have been provided about the case

Government dedicates $5 million to address workplace sexual harassment

Four organizations in B.C. will split the stipend

Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

Premier John Horgan called the spike in gas prices ‘alarming’

Okanagan College Enactus chapter brings home national gold

Students are leading the way to social betterment

Driver, animals escape injury after collision on Highway 1 near Sicamous

RCMP say road conditions were not a factor in afternoon crash

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Fifth cannabis store proposed for downtown Salmon Arm

City council has already approved maximum of four stores policy supports for commercial core

Mother of accused charged in death of Surrey teen girl found in torched SUV

Manjit Kaur Deo charged with ‘accessory after the fact’ in 2017 death of Surrey teen

Most Read