Does Burnaby's election PSA sound too much like the BCA or is this the silly season?

Chris Campbell

Last Friday, the NOW received an email from the City of Burnaby with a link to its new PSA raising awareness about the civic election on Oct. 20.

It’s a cute little video and I’m all about promoting voter awareness so I wrote a blog about it with a video link and posted the article to our website.

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On Saturday, I received a complaint email from city council candidate Janice Beecroft. She’s running as an independent and in her email says that the wording of the city’s PSA is a little too close to the campaign material of the ruling Burnaby Citizens Association for her liking.

In the 60-second video, the first words heard are: “In Burnaby, we live, work, play and learn.”

On the BCA website, in the first paragraph after the headline (see the attached screenshot), it says “working with our community to make Burnaby a great place to live, work, learn and play!”

bca wording
This is how the wording is on the BCA homepage. - SCREENGRAB

So, the same four words – live, work, learn and play – although the last two are transposed.

“I would love to share this video on my website and social media,” says Beecroft, “but I am not comfortable with the strategic marketing using the City website with BCA undertones. Of course I am free to use those terms as well, but using the same sayings in an election is not appropriate or recommended.”

How you - the reader - responds to all of this likely depends on your political stance. If you support the BCA, then you’re rolling your eyes at all of this. If you loathe the BCA, then you’re probably thinking, “hey, now wait a minute!”

If you’re neutral – like me – you’re utterly confused at how to react.

On the one hand, those are pretty generic words to describe what citizens do in a community, especially “live” and “work.” It’s not really a surprise that they would end up being used by two different sources.

On the other hand, it’s four specific words used by the city and the party that has a monopoly on the political landscape. It’s hard not to raise your eyebrows about it – especially during an election when conspiracy theories flow like kombucha at an east Van slam poetry festival.

For me, personally, I’m rolling my eyes at Beecroft’s accusation – I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

I asked for a response from the city’s chief election officer, Eva Prior and she sent what is a reasonable explanation.

“The words live, work, play and learn or similar iterations are predominantly used by Municipalities to indicate the importance and impact of city services on resident’s daily lives, for example Port Coquitlam, Richmond, Abbotsford, Mission, and Surrey to name only a few all use an iteration of this concept,” Prior said in an email. “The City of Burnaby has referenced live/work/play/learn on its LinkedIn page, in the Burnaby Social Sustainability Strategy and throughout the City’s website for a number of years.”

I asked Prior to describe the process the city used to put all of this together.

“The 2018 City of Burnaby Local Government Election video is an updated version of the original video created for the 2014 local election. In the spring of 2018, the video was updated to reflect the changes in voting locations, advance and general voting dates, and #BurnabyVotes. The 2014 video was a collaborative effort between the City’s Election Office and a local digital marketing agency. The company provided a draft script, storyboard, and animation and the Election Office approved the individual components and cumulative project.”

Now that is a reasonable explanation. Like I said, it’s a coincidence – and as Beecroft herself admitted, she is free to use those terms herself.

Look, election campaigns are full of high emotions. The slightest turn of phrase, gesture or incident usually gets blown out of proportion during election season. It’s the nature of a hysterical beast.
In New Westminster, I’ve had an onslaught of letters to the editor from people whining about how one civic party – the Progressives – are using orange as its campaign colour. People are upset because orange is the colour of the NDP and some people don’t think the Progressives are, well, progressive enough to use the colour – as though it’s somehow off-limits for use.

Which is ridiculous.

When I worked in Maple Ridge, I had a candidate come in with a measuring tape saying he had sized up an opponent’s campaign sign and it was one-inch wider than the city bylaw allowed. He said he had driven all over the community measuring everybody’s signs to make sure they conformed.

This is why we call it the silly season.

People lose their minds and freak out about any real or perceived infraction, which is why four simple words in a PSA can stir up a little controversy.

Can we now please get back to the more important issues concerning this city?

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