I was shocked when I first learned that the biggest Canadian advertising clients were our government and political parties.
Why is that, I wonder.
How much time, energy and money do our political parties and governments spend on advertising?
Why do they do it?
Because it works.
Because a commercial advertisement is short fast and compelling. Its why corporations advertise. The more money spent on advertising, the more product you can sell. In this case, the greater the chance of being re-elected, or the more votes your party gets.
Part I: The Government and Advertising
Public Works and Government Services Canada handles advertising at the Federal level. Government advertising as a means of public notification is one thing. Advertising as a means of “selling” something to the electorate is something else again.
It offends me that my tax dollars are used by my government to “sell” their policies and ideas to me.
Governments should not HAVE to buy advertising… if any level of government has something to say, the media will cover it. That’s called “news”.
If it is a good and useful policy presented it in a reasonable way through the news media or on government websites or through mailings should be sufficient.
I don’t want my tax dollars squandered on glitzy commercials with sound bites or pretty print ads designed to gull me into thinking what they want me to think.
There are far better uses for this money.
Health Care for instance.
Think about it. If the Canadian government wasn’t squandering all those tax dollars trying to sell Canadians things we don’t want, they would save a ridiculous amount of money. They wouldn’t need PST/GST “Harmonization” to generate the extra income they are about to start wringing out of taxpayers, instead of adding yet more tax to beleaguered taxpayers during a recession the unspent advertising dollars could be used instead.
Using advertising to sell us policies we don’t want is bad enough (a practice often called “propaganda”) but the absolute worst is that that our government is using our tax dollars to sell us political parties.
The first egregious example of this I saw was the Ontario road construction signs during the Mike Harris government of the 1990’s. All the construction signs did double duty by advertising Mike Harris and the Conservative government. Adding his name to those signs turned information dissemination into partisan advertising – paid for by taxpayers.
That is down right wrong. Of course, Premier Mike Harris had a majority government af the time so there was no stopping it.
[One more reason I dislike majority government.]
Instead of censuring this bad policy, it seems that succeeding politicians have emulated and even “improved” on the model.
Just last year Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the Conservative Party Logo imprinted on Government of Canada grant disbursement cheques. Is this simply a case of misrepresentation? A Conservative party attempt to make the recipients think the finds disbursed were given thanks to Conservative Party largess? If so this is certainly False Advertising. The only legitimate way for the Conservative party logo to be on a cheque would be if the cheque was drawn from a Conservative Party bank account.
Or perhaps Prime Minister Stephen Harper is unable to distinguish between Conservative Party funds and Government of Canada funds. If the latter perhaps the RCMP ought to be considering investigating Conservative Party finances to ensure Canadian government funds have not been spent inappropriately.
It’s bad enough crediting a political party with government works, but it is even slimier to affix their partisan info to public works projects that predate their authority. They are not only advertising, but FALSE advertising — with our tax dollars! I discovered this example in the Hill Times: Sheila Copps: Optics of Conservative cheque scheme dodgy.
Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor counters by harking back to similar Liberal Party shenanigans perpetrated by the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Taylor is only one of many to defend the policy by pointing out the Liberals did this as well. I link to Stephen Taylor‘s blog since he includes the National Post story no longer online.
I am horrified that none of these very smart people seem to get the point.
The point here is NOT that since the Liberals did it when they were in power it makes it OK for the Conservatives to do it when they form the government.
The real point is that it was never OK.
It doesn’t matter who does it.
It is ALWAYS wrong.
[An anti-party person like myself might point out this is just another example of Liberal and Conservative party similarity. They truly are interchangeable.]
The thing is, the government should not be selling Canadians political parties.
Tax dollars are non-partisan. Using them for partisan aggrandizement is at best a misuse of public funds.
If I ran the Zoo er Country…
I would slash the advertising budget. Because the only advertising our tax dollars should pay for is advertising to inform Canadians, not to “sell” us.
That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.
Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us. Find your Member of Parliament
The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:
The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.
[Like I need another blog… But the Canadian political situation has been overwhelming my personal blog, in the wind, and since there are more political blog posts fermenting in my brain, the only solution seemed to be to start “Oh! Canada” to look at
prorogation, electoral reform and Canadian stuff
Because I’ve already written quite a lot on prorogation, I’ve included links to those articles I’ve already published in the wind in the sidebar under “on Prorogation”, including Canada, we have a Prorogue which explains prorogation. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inappropriate use of prorogation is just a symptom of all the things that are wrong and getting worse in our Canadian manifestation of democracy.
So this is the place to find my further mutterings about Canadian electoral reform. Any other purely Canadian issues I tackle will also end up in this space.
If strong language bothers you, I suggest the just released censored version below:
One of the reasons I enjoyed this video so much is because it was so well done, in such a short period of time. Hardly a sign of the Canadian penchant for “apathy” that is so often leveled at us by the news media.
Personally, I have come to wonder just how much the news media’s vested interest in Liberal and the Conservative advertising dollars is. I’m beginning to wonder if the media can ever be anything but partisan. Since the first-past-the-post status quo favors the Liberal and Conservative parties at the expense of the others, it may well be that the news media would prefer to retain the status quo.
Regardless, I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am happy to see so many people coming together to effect positive change. So give yourself a pat on the back.
Canada is a democracy, but our system currently frustrates and disillusions a great many Canadians. When your vote is devalued it is very difficult to feel like you have a say. Majority governments routinely ignore Canadian citizens, whatever party is in power. (That would of course be either the Conservative or Liberal party.)
Yet we are constantly told that majority government is good for Canada. I think that is true only for the party forming the majority, not for us citizens.
The reason it is so difficult to achieve Canadian electoral reform is that our archaic “first-past-the-post” electoral system favors the Liberal and Conservative political parties. The easy evidence for this is that these are the only two Canadian political parties who have ever formed a government. So of course it’s no wonder neither of these parties want electoral reform.
Canadians aren’t apathetic, we are simply frustrated with a political system which leaves so many Canadian voices unheard. Up until now, we have not known what to do.
Canadian discontent has fed into a growing grass root movement of those of us who are frustrated and unhappy with our electoral system. Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) is a group that started by University of Alberta student Christopher White on the social networking website Facebook. The non-partisan membership grew to (as of this writing) 221,217 members. On this Facebook site, Canadians have posted 22,765 links, and begun 1996 topics of discussion underway in the Discussion groups.
One of the most interesting things to me is that the Facebook CAPP group is truly non-partisan. Oh sure, it is composed of people who support the Conservative, Liberal, NPP, Green, Marijuana, Pirate parties, and probably all the others as well… and there is at least one new party wandering the boards trying to drum up business. There are even lots of people like me… people who don’t belong to any party.
The common ground we all share is Canada. People from all across the political spectrum – from die hard supporter of the party of choice to people who have given up casting their vote… we are all there because we all see that there are big problems besetting our system of government.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s second inappropriate prorogation of the Canadian parliament in the space of a single calendar year was the flash point. But it only takes five or ten minutes in any of the discussion groups to realize that prorogation is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Outside of Facebook there are still some people trying to contend that there wasn’t anything unusual about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inappropriate prorogation. The fact that it wiped out more than half of the laws in the legislature – laws that his own party had put there – says different.
Rally Round The Country
The CAPP group inspired the NoProrogue rallies all over Canada, with a few sprang up from Canadians currently residing in other countries.
I’ve heard people denigrating the turnout. Some say there weren’t enough people at the rallies. They say our rallies don’t count because there were only tens of thousands of us. I know people who did not attend because of health reasons. After all, two hours is a long time to be standing around outside in winter even if it was a mild day in Canada. But how many Canadians were out there doesn’t matter. The point is that there were people out there.
They think that because there weren’t enough of us there our concerns don’t matter.
Yet. They value one individual letter more highly than several form letters. They value a postal mail letter over an email. They value an email form letter above a many signatures on a petition. A big reason for the higher valuations is the increased level of difficulty. I would think that one person standing out in the cold would be valued more highly than ten letters.
They attempt to devaluate the Facebook CAPP membership. One of the common reasons given is that it is “easy” to set up a facebook account with the implication that many Facebook accounts belong to many people. Obviously this argument is made by people who don’t understand what goes into having a Facebook account.
Which is an interesting argument, and a good one for electoral reform. Far too many Canadians don’t have a say under our present system. All too often Canada has majority governments elected with less than a majority of the votes. Under the current system, every Canadian does not have representation in our government. THAT is the problem. And it isn’t right.
Lets look at some other Facebook Groups in favour of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s second early Prorogation:
Canadians FOR the Prorogue!
Description: “Cuz bigwigs need vacations too! Lets take a break from the nauseating debacle that is watching the impotent Conservatives and the laughably bad Liberals go at it. Lets all go Olympic glad handing!”
Canadians Against Canadians Who Don’t Really Understand “Prorogue”
Description: “This FB site is a gathering place to mock those half-educated bandwagon jumpers who think it makes them seem politically educated to be against proroguing Parliament this one time, as opposed to every. other. time. Evidently, they don’t understand why Parliament gets prorogued. But they are against it. ‘Cause it’s bad.
This group attacks a specific group of people and will not be tolerated. ”
Canadians FOR Proroguing Parliament
Description: “On December 30th, 2009, for the second time in as many years, Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament. Like last time, he will certainly get what he’s asking for, doing something that is routine and has happened 105 times in the past, including four times under the Liberal Prime Minister Chrétien.
If you do the math that works out to about every one in 1.3 years. The majority of the Canadian people understand that this is parliamentary procedure, and we support this measure.
What can we do? Tell your Mp you think it’s a fantastic idea. Maybe even one that we should have every single year. ”
Canadians FOR Proroguing Parliament
Description: “There is a huge following of Canadians against proroguing parliament because of some “they are vacationing on our tax dollars” principle.
I say we get parliament to EXTEND their prorogue and set up a system where they only meet 2 months out of the year and for emergency situations. ”
Canadian Citizens FOR Prorogueing Parliment untill January 2009
Description: “If PM Harper prorogue’s Parliment untill after the budget scheduled for January 27th, it would avoid any need for a coalition governement or a non confidence vote scheduled for Monday Dec 8. Harper would then have time to formulate a stimulus package aimed at providing relief to industries caught up in the current financial crisis and provide other funding to help stimulate the economy. Canadian’s voted just a few weeks ago and have no desire to hit the polls again. Shame on Dion, Layton and Duceppe for playing politics with our country at a very serious time that calls for focus and action, not politics and coalitions. ”
Most of these groups seem to be jokes. But the question remains, if it is so easy to fake a couple hundred thousand member Facebook group, why isn’t there one in favor of Harper’s prorogation?
I’ve heard people saying that the news media boosted the estimates of attendees. I can tell you that that the estimates given by the media for the Waterloo Rally attendance were decidedly low. Something else that no one even considers is crowd turnover. It probably wouldn’t happen at other times of the year or in warmer climes, but a good number of older folks packed up and left the rally (around the time that the local TV reporter did). But the crowd didn’t shrink particularly, as groups of younger protesters were trickling in at around the time the older ones were leaving. That may also be peculiar to the Waterloo rally, since they had to push back the Rally time to accommodate a skating show that would have been taking place at the same time. So perhaps a lot of those folks hadn’t been aware that the rally time had moved. Whatever, there were far more than 500 attendees; the photographs I took tell me there were something between between 800 and 1,200 attendees.
I’m not sure about Guelph because I arrived late so I missed the outdoor part of the Rally. The crowd was already on the march away from the Rally en route to the indoor panel discussion in a local church. I started taking pictures as the marchers approached me.
But I could see that some of the people from the outdoor rally did not join the march. By the same token, I don’t know if all of the folks inside the church for the panel discussion attended the rally, or just showed up for the warm parts.
Does it really matter? What both the Facebook page and the NoProrogue Rallies clearly tell us is that there are a lot of Canadians unhappy with our political situation.
Have you ever noticed that Canadians are always accused of electoral apathy by the media, but then when Canadians start throwing no-prorogation rallies and suddenly we’re quaint but still ineffectual. Macleans ran an online story The Commons: ‘I shouldn’t have to be here’ which was yet another mainstream media stories that essentially tells us that when Canadians aren’t being ineffective through apathy, we’re being ineffective but cute when we engage in grassroots protest.
Meanwhile, back at the CBC online, the story Thousands protest Parliament’s suspension has 3206 comments… If you’ve ever fought your way through CBC comments, with only 5 to a page it would take far longer than a No-Prorogation Rally to read your way through them all. I wouldn’t mind so much except I have to sleep sometime.
If that is truly the case, we really need to do something about that. It is certainly something to think about.
whose country is it anyway?
This P.A. Herald story Protest about prorogue planned for Prince Albert is about Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback who brings obliviousness to a new low. This is a man spending some of his Prorogation Vacation in California. I think it would be a good idea for all Canadians to let Randy Hoback know just how we feel about this. Here is his contact information:
137-15th Street East (Main Office)
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
House of Commons
I mean really, it’s like this guy thinks he’s Tony Clement or something.