Premier John Horgan’s decision to fight for votes instead of fight the virus last fall unleashed $15.4 million of spending by B.C.’s big three political parties.
Almost half that was by Horgan’s NDP, which reported to Elections BC that its campaign cost $7.64 million. The NDP finished with a party record 57 seats. The BC Liberals had their worst result since 1991 and spent $6.36 million while the BC Greens were third with $1.41 million, according to the spending returns released Feb. 1.
The campaigns were directly subsidized for the first time after the NDP government banned corporate and union donations in 2017. The BC Liberals and NDP got roughly $1.59 million each in 2020 allowance payments, under a per vote formula based on the results of the 2017 election.
The NDP outspent the BC Liberals by more than $600,000 in the ad war: $2.87 million vs. $2.26 million. The BC Greens spent $408,704.65 on advertising.
A lion’s share of the NDP spending was $1.78 million through Now Communications Group, the shop formed by members of Mike Harcourt’s campaign team in 1991.
Now billed taxpayers $970,063 for the 13 months ended April 30, 2020 for central government advertising contracts and $90,930 to the Legislature for work on NDP caucus ads.
Multicultural specialist Captus Advertising came second in the NDP spending spree, with $498,757. That is less than what the company billed taxpayers for central government contracts in 2019-2020 ($513,623).
Point Blank Creative billed government $195,931 in the last fiscal year and it billed the party $180,959.13 for the campaign.
Other suppliers included event producer Project X Productions ($178,074.27), printer Thunderbird Press Ltd. ($161,923.27) and Public Outreach Consultancy Inc. ($137,624.26).
The disclosure does not show how much the party paid B.C. media companies. That would be embedded in the payments to the ad agencies. But it did include $8,750 to Google, $6,644.06 fo Facebook and $1,093.81 for the Slack app, which includes private messaging functions.
The pattern of spending in the NDP disclosures suggests months of planning went into Horgan’s decision on Sept. 21. He claimed that he decided on the snap election two days earlier, but the NDP had already pinpointed the second last Saturday of October earlier in the summer.
For the BC Liberals, Mike Wilson’s In Language Advertising was the primary shop, which billed almost $1.04 million.
Almost 1,000 British Columbians have died from the coronavirus since Sept. 21, 2020.
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