Premier David Alward's office is defending the expense of an optimistic ad campaign about New Brunswick's economy even though a previous Progressive Conservative government criticized and banned commercials like it 14 years ago as self-serving and inappropriate.
"Many of the people who will criticize this ad will soon be out criticizing us for not being open and sharing information with New Brunswickers," the premier's director of communications, Chisholm Pothier, said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We have no problem, and make no apologies, for highlighting the confidence and resilience of our people as we work through this challenging time and continue to rebuild New Brunswick," he said.
The province has purchased $75,000 of airtime to run the one-minute commercial which features David Alward talking positively about the economy in the wake of TransCanada’s announcement of plans to build an oil pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick.
"The future has never looked brighter," says Alward at one point in the ad. "Together, we will make New Brunswick stronger."
Pothier said the video cost $15,000 to produce, bringing the budget of the campaign to $90,000.
Overt political message
New Brunswick opposition parties have uniformly condemned the commercial as a waste of money.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation contends the commercial’s overt political message should be paid for by the Progressive Conservative Party, not taxpayers.
"This ad is all about painting the premier and the government in a positive light heading into an election next year," said the federation's Atlantic director, Kevin Lacey.
'Let’s stop wasting tax money on partisan ads and invest in programs … that make life better for New Brunswickers.' —NDP Leader Dominic Cardy
"If the premier wants to advertise those messages, then his party should pay for them."
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy called for the ad to be cancelled and the money redirected to Moncton’s YWCA, which is closing its family law information and legal advice clinics for the poor because of budget cuts.
"Let’s stop wasting tax money on partisan ads and invest in programs, like the family law clinics in Moncton, that make life better for New Brunswickers," said Cardy.
Lord government banned such ads
Progressive Conservatives once led the fight against government ads that carry political messages and banned the practice outright under the leadership of former premier Bernard Lord.
"(Government) promoting itself at the expense of solving real problems only breeds cynicism and mistrust," the party claimed in its 1999 election platform, New Vision New Brunswick.
The document said Progressive Conservatives would be "halting all politically-motivated government advertising and setting new rules for advertising to ensure it is legitimate and justifiable as a public service need."
Lord made good on the promise, forbidding government ads from featuring cabinet ministers or political messages.