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Opinion: BC Liberals must pull government ads in lead up to 2013 election
IntegrityBC is calling on the BC government to recommit to its 2009 ban on non-essential government advertising in the four months prior to voting day.
The organization made the call following growing public concerns over the government's new TV ads featuring Premier Christy Clark.
IntegrityBC released a copy of the December 12, 2008 BC Public Affairs Bureau memorandum that informed ministries that: “Effective, January 12th, 2009 non-essential advertising will cease until May 13th, 2009...Non-essential advertising includes any promotional or informational activity conducted by a provincial ministry, authority or agency that is not required for statutory, emergency, health and safety or the proper functioning of government.”
The memorandum goes on to define each category of permissible advertising.
“Since the Premier herself noted that most undecided voters don't make up their mind until the final days of the campaign, a ban on non-essential government advertising would seem a no-brainer,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis.
Under its 2009 rules, a government ban would apply as of January 8th. IntegrityBC called for it to apply on crown corporations as well.
While imposing a ban will do little to address growing cynicism over the current ad campaign – which many critics claim is simply political advertising masquerading as government ads – a four month pre-election ban would send an important signal that the government won't use the public purse for anything remotely partisan.
Nothing in the recent BC Court of Appeal decision on pre-election gag laws prevents the government from imposing such a ban in the lead-up to the 2013 election.
“While the Court of Appeal ruled that the government can't limit third-party advertising in a pre-election period, the government is still free to impose a limit on non-essential government advertising on itself, just as it did in 2009,” said Travis.
IntegrityBC drew specific attention to the fact that the self-imposed 2009 government ban was for twice as long as what the government had imposed on third-parties in the lead-up to that year's election.