British Columbia

B.C. government sends out more than 2,600 news releases in 2016

The B.C. government communications staff's typing fingers may need a holiday break. According to data collected by Integrity B.C., the Communications and Public Engagement Office sent out more than 2,680 news releases in 2016.

Government says it's important for people to see where tax dollars are going

Political watchdog Integrity B.C. says the provincial government has sent out more than 2,680 news releases this year. (CBC News/Richard Zussman)

The B.C. government communications staff's typing fingers may need a holiday break.

According to data collected by Integrity B.C., the Communications and Public Engagement Office sent out more than 2,600 news releases in 2016.

The busiest ministry was Transportation, with more than 400 news releases issued as of the middle of December. Integrity B.C. executive director Dermod Travis pointed to a Ministry of Transportation release that "patted itself on the back for moving forward with cleaner, modern facilities – more commonly known as toilets – at the Last Spike's historic rest station along the Trans-Canada Highway near Craigellachie."

According to Travis, the Ministry of Education has issued 273 news releases in 2016, including 50 in one 10-hour span celebrating new dust collection systems, upgraded floors and air conditioning systems at various schools across the province.

John Yap (left), the parliamentary secretary for liquor policy, participated in more than 10 media events in 2016 to announce changes to liquor rules. (Richard Zussman/CBC)

"When you get a news release headlined, "First trucks roll into Nordel Way truck parking facility," two days after you get a news release, "Construction complete on Highway 1 left turn lane at Westshore Parkway," you begin to wonder about the overkill," said Travis. 

On the liquor file, the provincial government sent out 28 news releases in 2016 on the subject of updating provincial regulations. 

Huge increase by Clark administration

Travis says, based on his research, there has been a substantial increase in the number of news releases under the Christy Clark government. According to the B.C. government website, there are 2,130 news releases archived in the time period from 2001 to 2005.  

"Possibly some of the releases were pruned for the archives, but the difference would suggest that is a lot of pruning," said Travis. 

The provincial government does not track how much attention or media coverage each news release gets. 

Andrew Wilkinson, the minister responsible for the communications and public engagement office, said his government is focused on getting out information to the public on where taxpayer money is going, no matter how small it may seem.

"It is important to remember that news releases can be province-wide or local. If you live in smaller communities in British Columbia and have local media outlets, it is very important for those local outlets to get relevant information about what government is doing with their tax dollars," said Wilkinson.

"When we go to our smaller communities, the local investments in education facilities is of very great interest to those communities. They want to know what is going on at their college, school or university, and they welcome this information coming from the government."

With files from On the Coast

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