Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Harper Got Caught in the Spin Cycle

Though Stephen Harper and the Conservatives always claim that the media is out to get them, they use it to it's full advantage.

No matter what scandal is uncovered, or how horrible a decision they've made is, they will always find a way to spin it.

Lately, they rarely put even put in an effort. When they were accused of threatening national unity, they simply said that the country has never been more united. Based on what?

Their whole blaming everything on the Liberals, is still a standard, but it's been getting old and weak. Ever wonder how they do it?

How Harper controls the spin

OTTAWA–In the 6th-floor office of a nondescript building sit the gatekeepers, the bureaucrats who decide what Canadians learn about the workings of their government. Questions on the hot issues of the day all get funnelled through this office, the "communications and consultations" unit of the Privy Council Office, housed in the Blackburn building that fronts the Sparks St. pedestrian mall.

Throughout the government, it's known simply as "downtown," the place where decisions are made on who speaks on issues and what they say. In the Conservative government's clampdown on communications, this is Ground Zero. Public appearances by cabinet ministers – whether it's a speech or an interview – are carefully staged, starting with a "message event proposal" vetted by the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic wing of the Prime Minister's Office.

Mum's the word till message vetted

OTTAWA–No federal cabinet minister speaks to a journalist, gives a speech or makes a policy announcement until a "message event proposal" has been vetted by a wing of the Prime Minister's Office.

That proposal, prepared by a minister's Communications staff, spells out the venue, topic, expected questions and the politician's speaking lines.

It's only after the proposal receives high-level approval by the Privy Council Office – the bureaucratic branch of the PMO – that the event can proceed, insiders say.

That's one example of how the Tories have centralized control over government communications since taking power in February 2006, officials tell the Star. The Privy Council Office has a "central role in the co-ordination and management of government communications, as determined by the Prime Minister and cabinet," said spokesperson Shawn Salewski ....

Under the federal communications strategy, issued by the Treasury Board, bureaucrats are required to:

• Communicate openly with the public about policies, programs, services and initiatives. ... "Openness in government promotes accessibility and accountability."
• Cultivate "proactive" relations with the media. "Journalists ... play an important role in the democratic process – providing the public with news and information about government, and reporting on the public's views and opinions of government."
• Operate and respond effectively in a 24-hour media environment and be able, on short notice, to inform media on important issues.
• Facilitate information or interview requests from the media, and manage plans and strategies for communicating with the media.
• Promptly address media inquiries, whether by phone, email, letter or in person, to accommodate publication deadlines.

But when has Harper and his team ever cared about the law?

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