Today in the legislature I questioned the Minister of Advanced Education on what I perceive to be a wasteful use of taxpayers resources. In the United States, the Trump news channel bills itself as the world’s first media outlet dedicated to positive news about Donald Trump. Here in B.C., we have our own. It’s called the Province of B.C. Channel.
You’ll see from the discussion below that this channel has been a colossal failure. Yet it is clear that a substantial amount of money has been spent producing these professionally produced videos. My questions were designed to find out how much these videos were costing the taxpayer.
My questions followed three that the Leader of the Official Opposition posed to the same Minister regarding pre-election advertising using taxpayers’ money. The Minister responded each time by berating the BC NDP for their record in the 1990s. That is why when I stood up I started off by saying that I thought it was 2017 not 1998.
Below I reproduced my exchange with the Minister in video and text format. I was quite disappointed with his answers.
A. Weaver: Last time I looked, it was 2017 and not 1998.
In the United States, the Trump news channel bills itself as the world’s first media outlet dedicated to positive news about Donald Trump. Here in B.C., we have our own. It’s called the province of B.C. channel.
This alternate news outlet is not drawing an awful lot of viewers, and we have to wonder why it exists. For example, of the 39 videos that have been posted, 37 have been complete flops. The B.C. jobs plan video got 148 views in three weeks.
The video of the Premier responding to the federal government’s marine strategy was viewed 118 times in three months. A Health announcement of $5 million on spending to boost paramedic response to B.C.’s overdose crisis got 135 views in two months.
The government of B.C.’s channel even produced a one-minute video of the Premier highlighting her in the Hong Kong Terry Fox Run. It got, in one year, 448 views.
My question is this, through you to the minister: how much is this channel costing the people of British Columbia, and why does it exist?
Hon. A. Wilkinson: The member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head constantly talks about being evidence-based. Well, let’s talk about some evidence.
First of all, the reason why the videos remain available is so that members of the public and the media can hold us to account for what has been said in the past.
Madame Speaker: Just wait.
Hon. A. Wilkinson: …the member seems to think that the only vehicle for people to learn in the world today is to go dig around in the government website for videos. He forgets that the public don’t consume their news that way these days. They find it through social media, through television — through other forms of communication.
That’s why we have been able to see the increases that we have. The property transfer tax exemption campaign ran for three months and saw a 34-fold increase in traffic in registrations for the service. That’s evidence, Madame Speaker.
A. Weaver: The minister clearly doesn’t actually know his file because this is not on the ministry websites. It’s their own province of B.C. news channel.
You know, the minister also says people get their news from other areas. This clearly is a large waste of taxpayers’ money. They’re professionally produced videos put out to the public that aren’t being used. As an example, my right-to-roam legislation, which I put forward, has received 100,000 views in less than a week.
My question, back to the minister, is: why are they doing it, who is paying for it, how much is it costing, and when are they going to take it down or actually make it accessible to a more diverse array of people?
Hon. A. Wilkinson: Well, given the quality of work we do and the quality of communication, we don’t need the Green Party bot to make 100,000 hits on our site.
We are not ashamed to say that we have introduced new programs that need to have the level of public awareness that is provided by a variety of communications channels. We maintain those communications vehicles for public scrutiny and for media scrutiny as time goes by. We are certainly not ashamed to have advertised and promulgated the information about the opioid awareness campaign, the property transfer tax exemptions, the single-parent employment initiative, the property tax deferment.
These are critical to British Columbians, as they go through their lives. They are entitled to know that they exist, they are entitled to get access to them, and they are particularly entitled to know that we run a balanced budget that provides $1 billion in MSP rebates. People are entitled to collect that rebate, and the member opposite should be proud of us for doing so.