In February, theBreaker.news reported that Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross had racked-up a $20,000-plus advertising and communications bill for the first half of the current fiscal year.
Ross led all MLAs in that category for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 2018. An analysis of Ross’s taxpayer-funded ads in the Black Press-owned Terrace Standard and Kitimat Northern Sentinel found he has a penchant for partisan rants against the NDP government and sometimes the Green Party.
Legislature rules prohibit the use of constituency office funds for partisan ads. The Office of the Clerk told theBreaker.news that it is available to MLAs for guidance, but it is not actively enforcing the rule.
Ross has not replied to repeated requests for comment, but his latest ad in the March 21 edition of the Terrace Standard is evidence of damage control.
Under the headline “My offices are here to serve,” Ross explained that he has two offices, in Terrace and Kitimat, because his riding is bigger than Belgium.
“I also want to make it clear that my offices are non-partisan and help is available to all residents of Skeena,” Ross wrote.
Ross, however, misled readers in the very first line of the ad.
“There is no handy guide book available for newly minted MLAs once they cross the finish line on election night,” he wrote.
Actually, there are two handy guide books available for MLAs.
One of them is called “New MLA Educational Resource Guide” to assist MLAs in constituency outreach activities. “An open house was held in September 2017 to provide information support and services for Members,” the website states.
Another is called the “Members’ Guide to Policy and Resources” and even has its own web page.
The chapter titled “Managing Your Constituency Office,” under the heading “Use of Constituency Office Allowance,” reads:
Members may also use the constituency office allowance for communications with constituents whether in the form of a newsletter, household flyer, and print, online, radio, or television advertisements. The content of these advertisements and messages is restricted to outlining constituency office activities, and the role played by the Member in the legislative process. Members may not print or mail, at the expense of the Legislative Assembly, any material seeking financial support or containing any identification or information of a partisan, political nature.
The leader of the BC Liberals is not setting an example of prudent spending for rookie Ross.
theBreaker.news also reported that Andrew Wilkinson charged taxpayers more than $44,000 for a digital advertising agency at his constituency office during the first six months of the fiscal year. Neither NDP Premier John Horgan nor Green leader Andrew Weaver pay for such services through their riding offices.
Wilkinson blew $59,000 on advertising and communications in 2017, the biggest spender of all MLAs. More than half the funds were spent on pre-election ads on CKNW and CFMI that reached far beyond his Vancouver-Quilchena riding.
The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee, prompted by Speaker Darryl Plecas’s damning January report on waste and corruption at the Legislature, has pledged new transparency and accountability measures.
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