This article out of the Globe and Mail yesterday:
Despite Conservative assertions to the contrary, a directive did go out to some civil servants last fall ordering them to use the term “Harper Government” in official government of Canada communications.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press contradict a published denial by Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former director of communications, who wrote “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Since when have we started making announcements as the ‘Harper Government’?” Daniel Morier, Health Canada’s chief of social media, asked in an internal email on Nov. 30, 2010.
Mr. Morier also passed along the following inquiry: “Why is @healthcanada creating partisan ‘press releases’ and marketing them as non-partisan ministry news?”
Erin Junker, a senior communications adviser at Health Canada, responded by email: “This was a directive I received from PCO.”
The Privy Council Office is the bureaucratic nerve centre that serves the prime minister, working in concert with the Prime Minister’s Office.
A PCO spokesman responded to a series of questions Wednesday about the Health Canada email exchange by reiterating that “there has been no change in policy or direction.”
Non-partisan departmental web sites switched to a Tory-blue motif soon after the Conservatives took power in 2006, and taxpayer funded Economic Action Plan website, signs and ads have blanketed the country since 2009 in a “whole of government” exercise that is indistinguishable from the partisan Conservative pitch.
It’s true…quite remarkable, and immensely slimy. Go look at every federal ministry website you can find. Finance ministry, , Human Resources Development Canada, Treasury Board, and one of my favorites Economic Action Plan.
Better yet, the Economic Action Plan has all headlines stating:
“Harper Government… federal government of Canada this…
Harper Government… federal government of Canada that…
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The G&M article continues:
And the remake of the Government of Canada brand has only begun.
This summer, PCO posted a public notice of “Proposed Procurement” for new design concepts for Government of Canada advertising.
“PCO is seeking to develop a ‘whole of government’ branding approach that increases the public resonance and recall of government messages and information,” says the proposal.
It calls for bids to alter the “voiceovers, sound bugs, music, colour schemes, taglines, vision icons” of government advertising in everything from the Web to TV and radio.
Some critics say they’re alarmed to see any partisan re-branding of what should be the scrupulously non-partisan machinery of government.
“There’s a serious issue here and it’s a deeply corrupting one for the public service,” says Ralph Heinzman, who teaches public administration at the University of Ottawa.
The former senior civil servant spent five years overseeing the Government of Canada’s communications policy and helped rewrite it, then headed the office of Values and Ethics in Treasury Board – which oversees all civil servants.
Mr. Heinzman was awarded the Vanier Medal in 2006, Canada’s highest recognition for public administration for his work in the areas of ethics and citizen-centred service delivery.
His assessment of the “Harper Government” label is scathing.
“I would say that any public servant who’s involved in communications activities of that type is in breach of both the Communications Policy and the Values and Ethics Code,” Mr. Heinzman said in an interview.
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Caught wind of some of those changes. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is being re-branded “Steve-O” in honor of George W.
And the Privy Council Office (PCO) is being re-branded the Primary Conservative Office.
But don’t worry (as some commenters on this site have suggested)… those in Ottawa engaged in communications and PR have no intentions of purposely misleading you…
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What do you think the response would be if the NDP got into power and changed all the websites to an ORANGE motif?
And I do seem to remember quite a few old RED federal ministry websites when the Liberals were in concocting the sponsorship scandal…
It really is little wonder that so many folks have become so disillusioned with politics and politicians.
Marketing is everything, everything is marketing.
Which is another way of saying: beware of branding.