The cost of government propaganda

Earlier this week I mentioned “bad optics” with regard to large real estate fee reimbursements for senior PMO insiders Gerald Butts and Katie Telford and the faulty résumé of Maryam Monsef, which, on top of the various ministers’ limo rides, hotel and “glamour photo” bills, began to make the governing Liberals look too “entitled” and even a bit careless with money and security.

Now we see, according to an article by David Akin in the National Post, that the government has been very, very, very busy … but not necessarily actually doing anything, just talking about itself. The Trudeau Liberals are, he explains, “spending millions of dollars on overtime for communications staffs as it looks to get out its messaging to Canadians.” He goes on to say that the government “has seven staffers in the Privy Council Office who spend part of their work duties producing videos for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s YouTube channel at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

Canada's PM Trudeau listens to a question from a journalist during an event at a restaurant in Gatineau

The Trudeau Liberals spent, between November 2015, when they took office, and early June 2016 (seven months), over $2.3 million on overtime for communications staffs … that’s overtime for people who are already on staff as communications officers, communications advisors, senior photocommunications advisors and strategic communications advisors ~ all federal civil servants on the public payroll, paid by you and me to make Justin  Trudeau and Catherine McKenna look good on YouTube!

OK, several things cry out to me for reform:

  • First, why is PCO staff producing YouTube videos for the prime minister? The Privy Council Office is, it says, “the hub of non-partisan, public service support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and its decision-making structures.” Making YouTube videos to promote the prime minister’s political agenda is, or ought to be, the business of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and, even more, the Liberal Party of Canada;
  • Second, it is time to look, closely, at the whole government communications business which has grown exponentially since about 1970. There really ought to be rom for quite massive cutbacks in the public sector/civil service ranks ~ I’m not suggesting that ministers and MPs don’t need “communications” staff, but I am suggesting that we, the already overtaxed people, shouldn’t be paying for all of it; and
  • Third, surely this is an area that could, almost in its entirety, be contracted out ~
    • Most of it should be done by political parties, not by government, at all,
    • Some should be done by the PMO, not the PCO, and
    • Civil servants should not be doing this (almost) at all ~ it is very, very suitable work for private contractors.

One of the communications teams that was singled out for lots of overtime was DND’s … I wonder what military operations or new equipment purchases they were explaining. Maybe I missed something, but, while I saw lots of information (propaganda) from defence suppliers I saw little in the way of information that might inform Canadians about military operations or defence policy or defence procurement.

I have commented, before, on military “communications,” and expressed a stron preference for DND to provide Canadians with “public information” while the minister and the government offers us propaganda.

Conservatives should demand major reforms to government communications, and when, as I am 99.9% certain they will, the Trudeau Liberals brush them off, the CPC should promise that, when they form a government, reorganizing (privatizing) and reducing the costs to the public of government communications (propaganda) will be a high priority item for the first 100 days.

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