04/25/2012 09:31 EDT | Updated 06/25/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. doles out $400K in outside PR contracts

The B.C. government has contracted out nearly $400,000 in communications contracts, CBC News has learned.

The Liberal government has a staff of about 200 people and an annual budget of about $26 million for communications, part of which went to outside contractors.

Documents obtained from a Freedom of Information request by CBC News show that budget included $376,000 in external communications contracts awarded by the government, none of which was publicly tendered.

The Opposition says the expense is excessive.

"If you already have 220 plus people spinning for you trying to put forward a positive news story every minute of every day, why in the world do you need to spend almost another half million dollars to bring in hired guns,” said NDP House Leader John Horgan.

The NDP says it’s all the Liberals thanking their friends, and point to the example of Reception Point Consulting, which was awarded a $72,000 contract.

The company is run by Don Millar, a former campaign advisor to Premier Christy Clark.

Another critic acknowledges the dollar amounts aren’t large, but say a principle is at stake.

"You know, $400,000 isn't a lot to government, but it is a lot to an individual taxpayer who's working every day to pay those taxes," Jordan Bateman, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, the minister responsible for government communications, said the communications budget has already been reduced.

"I think it's very important that we communicate and from time to time people like me have an opportunity to communicate like this, but a lot times we don't and people need to know what we're doing," MacDiarmid said.