B.C. government sued over use of taxpayer-funded advertising

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B.C. government sued over use of taxpayer-funded advertising

The civil claim — filed Monday morning by David Fai and Paul Doroshenko — alleges the government broke the law by spending as much as $15 million a year ago to "enhance the image of the governing BC Liberal party."

"We are seeking that the money being spent by the government on non-essential advertisement be reimbursed to the government coffers," said Doroshenko. "We look at all these advertisements that the government is running right now as breach of the obligation the government has to spend money for the benefit of British Columbians."

"They are not spending it for the benefit of British Columbians, they are spending it for the benefit of the BC Liberal Party."

Lawyers argue ads are a breach of trust

Doroshenko says he is also trying to get an order to stop the government from running any non-essential advertising before the May 9 provincial election. 

As to what law the government has actually broken, Doroshenko argues the province has a legal obligation to collect tax money and spend tax money for the benefit of the citizens. 

"If they are not spending it for the benefit of British Columbians that is the breach of the fiduciary duty, it is a breach of trust," said Doroshenko. "It's a level of arrogance that is astonishing to us."

Government ads have been reviewed before

The suit also alleges the provincial government is deriving personal benefit from tax dollars because it improves the party's chances for re-election. 

The B.C. auditor general has reviewed the practice of government advertising in 2006 and 2014.

In the most recent report the auditor general recommended the government create a general policy that prohibits the use of partisan political information in public government communications. That policy has not yet been created. 

The B.C. Government has budgeted to spend more than $15 million in the fiscal year that ends on March 31, 2017.

The advertisements include information about applying for the first time home buyers loan and the ongoing fentanyl epidemic.

The province has also provided additional money to advertise the public must register to qualify for the MSP premium rebate.

In a statement, Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, who is also in charge of government advertising, says advertising is important to inform British Columbians about services and program

"This litigation is timed to occur just before the election. The issues should be addressed in the election and not in the courtroom," said Wilkinson. 

"Government worked with the Office of the Auditor General to ensure that all information campaigns fulfil clear criteria: be fact-based, inform the public about government programs, services, policies or priorities and provide an opportunity for the public to engage with government."

None of the claims contained in the lawsuit have been proven in court.