In the face of harsh criticism from NDP leader Adrian Dix and Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony about the government's recent $15 million advertising expenditures, Chilliwack MLA John Les is unapologetic.
"We are doing reasonably well in British Columbia," Les told the Times Wednesday. "We've got some exciting prospects, particularly around mining and liquefied natural gas . . . it's important people have some understanding of what those issues are and how we are dealing with them and give them a sense of optimism about the future.
"I don't apologize for one minute for government reaching out and trying to be informative."
Les was responding to Dix's recent promise to crack down on taxpayer-funded advertising by making sure all government ads are reviewed and approved by the auditor general.
Dix was in town on Monday with O'Mahony and Chilliwack riding candidate Patti MacAhonic to talk about the advertising and his plan.
O'Mahony said in this time of "belt tightening" there are a lot of better uses for $15 million. She outlined a number of things that could be purchased with that money, including 10 kidney dialysis machines, 600 playground upgrades or a new Vedder River bridge.
She also mentioned the closure of the Chilliwack General Hospital in-patient rehabilitation unit.
"$15 million would pay for 20 beds at the highest rate of care for two years," O'Mahony said.
Les responded that there are always choices and trade-offs to be made but letting people know what the government is doing is important.
"Public awareness, if you are not rabidly in opposition mode, I think is readily accepted by most people as an acceptable activity of government."
But Dix said it was "unbelievable" public money was being spent on ads that he says are not only unnecessary but are blatantly partisan and misleading.
"It's unbelievable we're spending public funds to say we are number one in job creation when we are number eight," Dix said.
"I think people are tired of this." Asked if the issue wasn't simply low-hanging fruit for electioneering purposes, Dix responded that the expenditure was an important symbol in times of restraint.
"If the Liberal Party wants to put forward that type of misleading advertising then they should pay for [it] themselves."