It’s becoming increasingly clear that the B.C. Liberal reelection campaign will revolve around the party’s alleged support for small businesses.
Premier Gordon Campbell reinforced that message at a candidate-training session yesterday (March 28) in Vancouver. I guess Gordo's hoping that the public will forget the B.C. Liberal government’s dubious treatment of small businesses along Cambie Street, and focus on the bigger picture.
One of the pointmen in this campaign to portray the NDP as enemies of small business is Victor Vrsnik, a principal of Spire Public Relations Ltd.
Vrsnik is also the coordinator of the Coalition of B.C. Businesses, which has launched the votebcjobs.ca Web site in advance of the May 12 provincial election.
The coalition is a registered election advertising sponsor with Elections B.C., which gives it the right to run a limited amount of third-party advertising up until election day as per the Election Amendment Act, 2008.
Parts of this so-called gag law have been found unconstitutional, according to the British Columbia Teachers' Federation. A B.C. Supreme Court ruling on the matter is expected to be released this week, clarifying the situation.
If you watch the videos on the votebcjobs.ca/ site, you’ll see serious shilling for the B.C. Liberals.
Vrsnik, who arranges interviews with the spokesperson for votebcjobs.ca/, came to my attention several years ago while he was provincial director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
During the first term of the B.C. Liberal government, Vrsnik favoured balanced-budget legislation, a legislated provincial debt-repayment plan, and significant restraints on spending.
When Vrsnik spoke to a legislative committee in 2002 about these ideas, he was praised by Ralph Sultan, the Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, who described it as an “excellent, excellent presentation”.
In recent years, Vrsnik's company has done work for the Copeman Healthcare Centre, which charges patients an annual fee to see its doctors and other health-care practitioners.
It’s not his only link to the private health-care industry.
Vrsnik is also listed as the media coordinator of the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association, which advocates for “the right to access private insurance when the public system fails”.
Curiously, the portfolio section of Spire’s Web site also lists the West Vancouver-Capilano Liberal riding association. Sultan is still the MLA
Political parties are permitted to spent $4.4 million during the campaign period from April 14–May 12, according to Elections B.C.
Candidates can spend $70,000 each.
An “election advertising sponsor”—which is not a registered political party, registered constituency association, or candidate—is an organization that must register with the chief electoral officer.
Up until now, third-party advertisers have not been permitted to spend more than $3,000 in a single riding or $150,000 provincewide from February 13 to voting day on May 12.
Election advertising sponsors must be independent and not sponsor election advertising with political parties, constituency associations, candidates, agents, or financial agents, according to Elections B.C.
I find it intriguing that the person who is a major participant in this particular election-advertising sponsor also happens to list a B.C. Liberal constituency association as a client on his public-relations-company's Web site.
Gee, I wonder if that’s something that might interest Elections B.C.
Then there’s that business of Vrsnik’s former work with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Interestingly, the CTF’s B.C. branch issued a news release earlier this year criticizing the B.C. Liberal government for running a $495-million deficit in this fiscal year, and another $245-million deficit the following year.
This year, the B.C. Liberal government also scrapped the balanced-budget legislation that Vrsnik was so fond of during the Campbell’s first term as premier. The CTF was not impressed by the return to deficit financing.
Of course, none of this is mentioned on the votebcjobs.ca/ Web site.