Critics of the city’s soon-to-launch blue cart recycling program are miffed officials have budgeted a half-million dollars for a slick advertising campaign.

With southwest communities set to be the first to receive service for the $8 per month program starting next Tuesday, the plan is once again coming under fire for a $500,000 marketing campaign that includes TV, bus shelter, movie theatres and newspapers ads.

Ald. Ric McIver said he’s mystified as to why the city felt it necessary to roll out a pricey package when everyone else is pinching pennies but he believes it may be a way to try and win over Calgarians still sore about being force fed the program.

“It kind of smacks of propaganda rather than just getting this information out,” he said.

“If we’re going to be dropping these blue bins all over the place then maybe we should stuff a pamphlet inside all of them.”

By June, the city will be providing the service to some 300,000 Calgary homes, putting the fee on the monthly utility bill and allowing homeowners to recycle paper, plastics and glass without having to sort.

But the program has long been the subject of controversy, with some questioning the hefty price tag and the city’s decision not to farm out any of the service to private contractors.

Paula Magdich, program leader for the city’s blue cart program, said the one-time cost to educate and inform customers is necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page when the program launches.

“This is a brand new program and we have heard from other cities that communication and public education is absolutely critical,” she said.

“There’s always a small percentage of people who aren’t in favour of new programs but overall we’ve seen high support.”

Magdich added that considering the annual operating revenue for the blue cart program is $28 million, paying a small portion of that to ensure customers are well informed makes sense.

The first billings will appear on utility statements for southwest residents starting on April 24.

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