'Soaring economy' touted by province in $360K ad campaign
Labour Minister Donald Arseneault says no reason for campaign to be independently vetted for partisan content
A New Brunswick advertising campaign that boldly claims the province's economy is "soaring" even though it is performing worse than most provinces, was not independently vetted for partisan content before being launched, as the Gallant government once promised.
The advertising campaign, which encourages people from across Canada to apply for work in New Brunswick, is running in six provinces and feature billboards, transit ads, airport signs and radio and television ads.
It began in mid-December and runs until early February.
The premise of the campaign is that New Brunswick's economy is flourishing and needs workers to fill thousands of empty jobs.
'Growth leader in Canada'
That's despite recent independent assessments that have concluded New Brunswick's economy has been struggling.
In November, the Atlantic Province's Economic Council called economic growth in New Brunswick in 2016, which it estimated at 0.5 per cent, "very weak."
- New Brunswick's economy expected to move into recession in 2016
- New Brunswick sees stable, but almost stagnant, economic growth
- New Brunswick economic see-saw continues with 2,200 job losses
Then in December the Conference Board of Canada, citing "little economic growth" in New Brunswick in 2016, placed its performance seventh among the 10 provinces — a position the board predicted would worsen to eighth this year.
Bruce Fitch, the Riverview MLA and Progressive Conservative finance critic, said the ad reinforces recent government messaging about the economy but is at odds with the reality of how the economy is actually performing.
"It's misleading at best," said Fitch.
Gallant criticized PC ads
Brian Gallant was a fierce critic of advertising campaigns on the economy launched by the former PC government of David Alward, condemning the campaigns as self-serving.
Gallant vowed to strip "partisan" messaging out of ads produced by his own government.
He defined partisan as advertising where "a primary objective of the item is to promote the partisan political interests of the governing party."
Items deemed to contain political messages and not fixed were to be killed on the authority of the supervisor.
"It is very important to us that we define as best we can what would be a partisan ad and put a stop to it," Gallant told the legislature in March 2014, as he introduced the legislation.
The Alward government voted the bill down, but in the 2014 election the Liberals promised to reintroduce the measure once elected. That hasn't happened.
Arseneault says he is not sure why the promised Government Advertising Accountability Act has not been reintroduced but said the current ad campaign crosses no partisan lines.
"I don't think there's anything political in there," said Arseneault. "I don't see the Liberal logo on the billboards."