The BC Liberal Party has rejected a lawsuit claiming it spent taxpayer dollars on commercials to boost its image.
The party has submitted court documents saying the suit doesn’t plead facts and notes the government aired a commercial with priorities the plaintiff doesn’t agree with.
The plaintiff’s lawyer Paul Doroshenko says he doesn’t put much stock in the Liberals’ response.
“We’re not really concerned about what’s in the replies. You know, it’s now a matter of getting our cases together and putting those two issues before the judge.”
Doroshenko adds he believes the suit has merit and is particularly important with another election possibly in the wings.
“[The government] might last 18 months. I figure that the Liberals will probably manufacture some crisis in 18 months to try and go back to the polls to try and win a majority. When that comes, they’re on notice I guess at this point, but they better not be running partisan advertising leading up to that.”
The government doubled its advertising budget in December of 2016 to $15-million.
The Liberals say they haven’t mismanaged funds and that the ads were fact based, featured no politicians, and didn’t violate any rules.
Questioned at the time the lawsuit was announced, Andrew Wilkinson — the BC Liberal minister responsible for advertising — defended them as necessary to inform the public about coming changes, such as the MSP cut that British Columbians must register for.
None of the ads remain visible on the province’s official YouTube or social media channels.
But back in March, B.C.’s auditor general found the province needed tougher guidelines monitoring government advertising for partisanship, after reviewing the Liberals’ winter-spring ad spree.
Carol Bellringer found an ad discussing the government’s balanced budget and a proposed cut to medical premiums exceeds guidelines for information that should be included in public communications.
Bellringer authored another three years ago calling for a government advertising policy banning the use of partisan political information.
With files from Kyle Benning, Tanya Beja and the Canadian Press.