Whether it meant to or not, British Columbia’s biggest public university is spending $945,000 on an advertising campaign that recycled the NDP’s 2017 campaign slogan.
The University of British Columbia’s “For a better BC” campaign profiles four diverse students on the UBC website, with corresponding YouTube videos, and radio ads that launched earlier this week on CKNW.
One of the subjects is Tim Abbott, an environmental engineering doctorate candidate at UBC’s Okanagan campus. In the video, Abbott wears an orange toque eerily similar to NDP orange. The videos and radio spots end with the subjects repeating their name, and declaring “I go to UBC for a better B.C.”
Leslie Dickson, associate director of UBC’s public affairs department, denied the government had direct or indirect involvement in the campaign. She said the creative concept and slogan were developed by UBC in collaboration with creative agency Taxi and media buyer Mediacom.
“The tagline, ‘for a better B.C.,’ was chosen because it best reflected the campaign’s stories of four UBC students who are working to make our province a better place for everyone,” Dickson told theBreaker.
Rodney Porter, spokesman for Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark, said the ministry does not get involved in individual advertising or marketing campaigns by public post-secondary institutions.
But a government accountability watchdog isn’t buying either of those explanations. Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said the university should come clean about how it came to use the slogan.
“No matter what the excuses are, it is incredibly inappropriate for any public agency to be using a political slogan that has so recently been employed in the province of B.C., as this slogan was only a few months ago,” Travis said. “Whether they’re trying to court favour with government is one issue, whether the government is trying to encourage the use of that slogan is another issue. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be used. Period.”
An April 4 news release declared “John Horgan and the BC NDP kick off campaign for a better B.C.” Horgan’s introduction in the party platform said “I believe it’s time to build a better B.C.” The party held a “Countdown to a better B.C.” rally at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on April 23, with a banner reading “Better BC” in bold, capital letters on the stage.
The word “better” appeared 17 times in the Sept. 8, 2017 Throne Speech, outlining priorities for the fall session of the Legislature. Headings included: Foundations of a Better B.C. and Vision for a Better B.C.
“Your government will build a better B.C. where no one is left behind,” it said.