The cost of the Alberta Government’s roadside “Building Alberta” signs was brought to light in news releases from the Canadian Taxpayers Association (CTF) and the Wildrose Opposition on Thursday, January 2.
In documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests by the CTF it was noted that over $1.04 million was spent on 293 signs. With costs averaging $3,560.35 per sign, the CTF media release noted that this was a 377 per cent increase over 2012 costs ($219,000) and a 3,027 per cent increase over 2011 costs ($33,000).
“The cost of these signs is clearly wasteful, especially when you consider the fact that the government is borrowing money to buy them,” said CTF Alberta Director Derek Fildebrandt. “These signs are not innocent, bureaucratic bulletins. They are partisan propaganda with Premier Redford’s name emblazoned across them.”
Wildrose responded with similar sentiment to the information, with Finance Critic Rob Anderson calling the signage costs “disgraceful” and an overt promotion of the Premier and PC party.
“This was never about informing Albertans about anything meaningful. It was about boosting the Premier’s image at taxpayers expense,” Anderson said. “The Premier needs to apologize for this partisan use of tax dollars, immediately cancel this politically motivated campaign and order her party to pay back the money.”
The Wildrose press release also recalled an email obtained that was sent by Darren Cunningham, a senior official in the Premier’s Office on September 4, 2013, which stated that signs should be present at every area affected by the flooding to convey to the public that the Government was rebuilding.
“I don’t care if an(sic) [Request for Proposal] is ready or not we need a very visible commitment that the government is rebuilding,” Cunningham wrote in the email. “The signs are designed we just need to push these out over the next seven days to two weeks.”
In a phone interview on January 3, Christine Way, Press Secretary to the Minister of Transportation Wayne Drysdale said the signs were informational in nature and a way to communicate construction and rebuilding efforts, such as areas affected by the flooding in June.
“These signs are about ensuring that Albertans know how their tax dollars are being spent by the Government,” Way said. “It’s been Alberta’s practice for many years [to erect signs] and it is the practice in most other provinces to post infrastructure signage at various constructions sites, road repairs, schools and health care facilities to show citizens how tax dollars are working to build communities.”
She says the reason for the increase in money spent was informed partly due to an influx in disaster-related reconstruction from the spring flooding and the calculation of the overall cost of creation and construction of signage, including costs to put them up around the province. Way noted that a tender process was carried out for the project.
“We look at the overall bottom line and go with the bidder that provides the best overall value for taxpayers dollars,” Way said. “2013 saw increase in total amount spent on signs because there were quite a number of recovery projects with the disaster in June, 56 transportation related recovery projects [including] repairing roads and bridges. That’s where the increase can be attributed.”