New Brunswick

'Getting things done': Province puts up taxpayer-funded infrastructure signs bearing party line

New Brunswick’s infrastructure minister says a new crop of government signs have nothing to do with an election now just 15 months away.

Gallant government has erected 80 signs highlighting new projects, starting at $600 a sign

The signs cost $600 to $800 each and are designed and printed by the government in-house, with no outside marketing firm involved, said a government spokesperson. (Paul Hantiuk/CBC)

New Brunswick's infrastructure minister said a new crop of government signs have nothing to do with an election now just 15 months away — though Bill Fraser also said the signs will probably keep popping up until just before the 2018 campaign.

The taxpayer-funded signs bear the slogan "Getting Things Done," a phrase that happens to match the one used on the New Brunswick Liberal party website to defend the Gallant government's record.

The signs are popping up at project sites ranging from a $250,000 upgrade at the Miscou Island lighthouse to $76 million for a combined new courthouse and renovation to the Centennial Building in downtown Fredericton.

"The signs like the ones we're putting up are a way for our government to let New Brunswickers know where their tax dollars are being invested," Fraser said. "It increases awareness of our investments in local communities in a very open and transparent way."

Strategic program review delays signs, said Fraser

He said the signs were only appearing this summer, barely a year before the 2018 campaign begins, because the Liberals were busy until last year with their strategic program review.

"That exercise is finished and we're moving on, investing in infrastructure and getting things done," Fraser said, dropping the slogan into the interview.

Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said the government will likely erect more signs as it continues unveiling spending projects into 2018, when the campaign will be that much closer. (CBC)

The phrase echoes the "Listening and Getting Things Done" line used in the most recent Liberal Throne Speech and budget.

But Fraser said the signs are not aimed at voters going to the polls in September 2018.

"We're still well over a year away from an election," he said. "It's really important for people to see where their tax dollars are being spent."

He also said the government will likely erect more signs as it continues unveiling spending projects into 2018, when the campaign will be that much closer.

"It wouldn't be anything different next year than this year in getting that message out," he said.

Signs up to $800 a piece

The signs cost $600 to $800 each and are designed and printed by the government in-house, with no outside marketing firm involved, said Tanya Greer, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

About 80 signs were ordered but Greer didn't know how many were erected so far.

The campaign also includes smaller $50 signs, known as "podium toppers," that Liberal politicians and stakeholders hold in their hands during government photo opportunities.

The signs are popping up at project sites ranging from a $250,000 upgrade at the Miscou Island lighthouse to $76 million for a combined new courthouse and renovation to the Centennial Building in downtown Fredericton. (CBC)

Asked what voters should make of the slogan matching the one on the Liberal party website, Fraser managed to wedge the phrase into the interview a second time.

"What people should take from that is we are getting things done here in the province," he said.

It's a good reminder for people that there's a price that's associated with these projects, and in order to pay for that … we had to raise taxes and that wasn't enough so we're going into debt as well.- Brian Macdonald, Opposition Progressive Conservative MLA

Opposition Progressive Conservative MLA Brian Macdonald said if the signs are supposed to send a political message, it may not be the one the Liberals want.

"It's a good reminder for people that there's a price that's associated with these projects, and in order to pay for that … we had to raise taxes and that wasn't enough so we're going into debt as well," he said.

Harper government used it, too

The "Getting Things Done" slogan is not original. The Harper government used the same phrase to promote its funding projects.

Harper's Conservative government was also responsible for another innovation in promotional signage.

Liberal MLAs Brian Kenny, Denis Landry and Victor Boudreau pose for a photo in front of a sign announcing the Chaleur Region Hospital expansion. (Government of New Brunswick)

Until 2009, a shared federal-provincial sign with both government logos was erected at projects paid for with joint funding.

But Harper's government told provincial governments eight years ago it would no longer share the signs, and provinces that wanted a share of the credit for joint projects would have to put up their own.

Fraser wouldn't say whether there was a political element to the Gallant government's signs.

"It's a way to give people hope and encouragement and encourage private sector investment as well," he said.

Nor would the minister identify which of the signs, or which of the spending projects, was his favourite.

"As my mother would tell me when I used to ask 'am I your favourite child?' I like them all," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.

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