The provincial government is doing it all! Have you heard? Just sign up for government press releases and you'll be the recipient of more inbox spam than you'll get from a Nigerian viagra dealer.
Just this week my email has been hit with releases about 2013 fishing regulations, consumer-protection tips, new rules to enhance rights for vulnerable adults, and the fact that the Pacific salmon has been designated B.C.'s provincial fish.
All interesting and important stuff, sure.
There were also two particularly local releases from the province: Yarrow community school officially opened, and Chilliwack is one of 20 communities to receive money to boost cycling infrastructure. (The city got $26,323 for Boundary Road bike lane.)
Much of this, again, is important information.
But I got the sneaking suspicion that more press releases than usual were flowing into my inbox so I decided to do a little counting.
Is there a correlation between a BC Liberal-led government facing an election and the number of press releases issued?
Ya, there is. And I'm not saying the NDP didn't do it too-I have no idea-but this Liberal-led public service has sent out a virtual tsunami in recent weeks.
Since I arrived at the Times in 2006 there have been two provincial general elections, 2009 and this year. I counted the number of B.C. government press releases so far in March just to pick a recent, if random, period of time leading up to the election.
The result? In 2006 the B.C. government issued 82 press releases between March 1 and 20. They shot out 85 in 2007, 106 in 2008, 78 in 2010, 78 in 2011 and 105 in 2012. That's an average of 89 missives during that period in those nonelection years.
Yet in 2009, when a general election loomed, 200 press releases flowed out from government communications offices between March 1 and 19.
This year the number was 170. That's an average of 185 over the two election years up from 89 in non-election years.
More than double the public information during the month preceding provincial elections under the governing BC Liberals over the last seven years is not scandalous by any means.
But remember, we are always told that government communications is some sort of benign purveyor of non-partisan information, telling us what goes on in Victoria.
I'm not saying that's not at least partially true but is it just a coincidence then? Maybe the concern shouldn't be taxpayer-funded communications personnel writing press releases in the months preceding an election but the lesser amount of information we are provided in non-election years.
Is that because they are doing less in non-election years? Are they somehow stalled from doing their work at that time? Or are they unmotivated to spin whatever it is they are doing as polls are years away?
And when an election approaches, do they start to do more? If so, why? Or do they just try to spin what they are doing more?
And if so, is that ethical? The second-most shocking aspect of what is coming to be known as Ethnicgate (the first being the fact that Liberal insiders were using private emails to avoid public scrutiny) is the fact that taxpayer dollars were spent in a scheme to convince "us" (well, "us" if you are "ethnic") that the Liberals are worth supporting.
Related to that, it's hard to calculate how much government "information" going through the various media branches is politicized.
The truly cynical will suggest that if the goverment ever tells us anything they are doing in a press release, then it is shameless push for the party in power, be it NDP or Liberal.
Clearly not every press release issued by civil servants serves the public good. There is sometimes a specific partisan (i.e. governing party) purpose.
The pure volume I'm getting these days say it's so.