Critics are slamming a government decision to spend $500,000 on job fairs as part of its B.C. Jobs Plan in the run-up to the spring provincial election.
The Liberal government quietly posted on Christmas Eve its intent to extend a contract with PACE Group communications for a series of job fairs between Jan. 14 and March 31.
The $500,000 contract extension means additional career expos in B.C. communities, which the government said will bring together local employers and people seeking work.
The government has already hosted 24 job fairs in the last four month, at a cost of $1.182 million.
The expense “is a reasonable price to pay if the outcome is getting more British Columbians working,” the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training said in a statement Thursday.
But it also lets the government spend taxpayer dollars to promote its B.C. Jobs Plan — a document Premier Christy Clark has said is central to her re-election campaign — just two months before the May 14 provincial election.
“When I look at the time frame, it’s clearly to expand the pre-election advertising that [the Liberals] have been doing for the jobs plan, and moving that closer to election day,” said NDP critic John Horgan, MLA for Juan de Fuca.
“Another half a million dollars to promote the B.C. Liberals, not to provide good government.”
The expenditure comes at a time when the government is trying to slash hundreds of millions in expenditures to balance the budget in February — though the contract money comes from the current fiscal year, ending March 31.
“We think these jobs fairs have been a ridiculous waste of money,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“It’s electioneering, pure and simple. What they are doing here is the government is trying to create a narrative where they are creating an economy where jobs are number one.
“Really, they are just trying to buy our votes with our own money.”
The government estimates that more than 31,000 people and 280 companies attended its job fairs between September and November.
Many people expressed a desire to see the fairs become a recurring event, the ministry said in its statement.
The contract extension will only happen if there is sufficient money in the budget, the government said in its notice of intent.
Horgan said he thinks the government will dip into its contingency fund, normally reserved for emergencies, to pay for the project.
“Clearly, this is a government [whose] priorities are in the wrong place,” he said.
The new job fairs are not related to the government’s $3-million rock-and-roll-themed JobFest tour, in which young people were lured to career expos with live bands during the summer.
Critics also slammed that program as an expensive marketing and advertising campaign designed to promote the Jobs Plan.
© Copyright 2013