BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has charged taxpayers more than $44,000 for a digital marketing agency.
Parksville-based Motiontide Media began invoicing Wilkinson’s Vancouver-Quilchena constituency office $2,938.95 per month for a digital marketing plan in July 2017, the month that the BC Liberals relinquished power to the NDP. The price changed to $2,929.50 in February 2018, the month that Wilkinson was elected party leader.
An analysis by theBreaker.news found that Motiontide cost taxpayers $26,431.65 for the year ended March 31, 2018. It billed another $17,577 for the first six months of the current fiscal year. The Legislature has not published receipts for October through December of 2018.
Why did Wilkinson hire a digital marketing agency and what did Motiontide specifically deliver? Neither Motiontide owner Joel Grenz nor Wilkinson responded for comment.
Neither NDP Premier John Horgan nor Green leader Andrew Weaver spend constituency office funds on digital marketing agencies. The closest that Horgan comes is the $75 that his office shells out, along with all other NDP MLAs, every quarter to Affinity Bridge of Vancouver for content management and maintenance of MLA websites.
The money Wilkinson spent on Motiontide far exceeds the figures that he reported in the communications and advertising column on his spending summary. For the year ended March 31, 2018, Wilkinson claimed only $12,460 of his office’s $135,114 expenses was for communications and advertising. But he did show $28,744 under “other office expenses,” which can include fees for contracted services, such as writers and office maintenance workers.
For 2018-2019 so far, Wilkinson claimed $6,831 for communications and advertising and $17,937 for other office expenses.
Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said how MLAs report spending is an area that the Legislative Assembly Management Committee must improve. MLAs, however, need not wait for policy or law changes to be transparent on their own.
“One of the obligations that goes with the transparency question is to provide copies of the advertising that was undertaken,” Travis told theBreaker.news. “So people can determine whether or not it was stealth advertising, whether it was advertising that was attempting to collect somebody’s name and address and email address, or whether, in fact, it was reporting to his constituents on what he had done in the previous three months, four months, six months in the B.C. Legislature on their behalf — which is what that money has always intended to be for.”
Motiontide describes itself as a full-service digital agency. A BC Liberal Party donor list in 2017 said Grenz donated $7,000 on Feb. 10 of that year. However, the Elections BC database shows only $485 in 2017 from Grenz ($225 on Jan. 7, $250 on March 3, and $10 on Dec. 26).
In 2017, theBreaker.news exclusively reported that Wilkinson spent almost $59,000 on ads for the year ended March 31, 2017. It was the biggest line item on Wilkinson’s $120,482 constituency office cost summary. While Wilkinson was the minister in charge of government advertising and communications, he went on a $30,383.80 ad buying spree on CKNW and CFMI from the end of December 2016 to the start of February 2017.
“Andrew Wilkinson’s constituency office expenses in general are out of whack,” Travis said. “His advertising expenses, whether digital or otherwise, demonstrates somebody that seems to be spending money on advertising that cuts across constituencies rather than what it’s intended for, which is to speak to his constituents.”
On Jan. 31, 10 days after the damning report by Speaker Darryl Plecas about waste and corruption in the offices of clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, Wilkinson Tweeted “When we spend taxpayer dollars, the taxpayer should know about it. Period.”
Wilkinson is in damage control mode after he said in the Legislature last week that being a renter was “a wacky time of life… a rite of passage.”
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