Sunday, May 24, 2009

 

Abolish the Public Affairs Bureau ...

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... and replace it with a system that is more open and non-partisan

Alberta’s Public Affairs Bureau is overly centralized, politicized, partisan and dominated by the Office of the Premier. It is essential to ensure that government communications are reformed by eliminating the PAB and instituting a more decentralized approach that is based in each government department, with an emphasis on more openness and communication to meet the public’s need for non-partisan information about the work of each department.

The Problems:

The role of the Public Affairs Bureau is a reflection of and a major contributor to the larger problem of too much secrecy and too little transparency and openness in the operations of Alberta’s government.

The problem of over-centralization of government information has become more acute over the past decade. This unhealthy situation is made worse by the control of the PAB by the Office of the Premier.

It is vital in a democracy to make a clear distinction between activities and information that are needed to fulfill government functions and those that are for party or partisan purposes.

In recent years in Alberta, that line has not only been blurred by the structure and actions of the PAB – it has been effectively erased. “Explanations of government policy” that read like election platforms, government advertising that could just as easily have been party advertisements, “fireside chats” that advance a partisan agenda – the list is long, the public pays, and the PAB and Premier’s office direct and coordinate the communication process, which ultimately advances party ends at public expense.

The Changes Needed:

The action needed is relatively straightforward. Efforts to merely reduce the centralization and politicization of the PAB are unlikely to be successful, because there would still be a large and powerful organization with control over information, subject to direction by the Office of the Premier.

Instead, it is necessary to eliminate the PAB in its current form, and to decentralize its operations and functions to each department, with each minister in charge of communications for the department – a model used in many other jurisdictions.

Giving control to the departments and ministers will reduce both the monolithic nature of the PAB and the ease of domination by the Premier’s Office. At the same time, it will still be necessary to act to ensure that department's communications serve non-partisan needs ...

From Public Interest Alberta. Read more HERE.


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See "Specific Accountabilities" under which B.C. Public Affairs Bureau employment opportunities are described HERE.

Note the emphasis on Public Relations and journalism expertise in the job requirements for Director and all others. Prominent directors like Andy Orr and Eli Sopow have come directly from a media background.

The corporate-aligned Public Affairs Association of Canada notes that officials of this "industry" may also specialize in "China Wall" or "Cone of Silence" techniques to "protect" one client from another. No kidding.

Back to the simple BC foot-soldiers marching with the Campbell regime's P.A.B. officers. Their work is amply described here (don't miss P.2) and it may be remembered that Aneal Basi, when working for the Campbell Government, was a junior Public Affairs Bureau officer, about whom very little has been said since his arrest on charges of money-laundering in the Basi-Virk, BC Rail Case.

Power-figures are always interested in good press or, failing that, in the Cone of Silence.

The B.C. Public Affairs Bureau reports to someone in the B.C. premier's office who allegedly may also be interested in that Cone of Silence -- the Deputy Chief of Staff, Lara Dauphinee -- as well as the premier himself.

I am convinced that this is why next-to-nothing is available to the public in the media about Ms Dauphinee who in my view ought to be accountable to somebody even if she is not an elected representative. Her phony come-on photo in Facebook -- replaced during the BC election campaign with a "Vote Liberal" sign -- sent a clear message: "Game on!"

Some game, some attitude, when it's the public trust that's at issue. Somebody should tell these folks that the public trust isn't just any old political football and this isn't a game we enjoy playing, either. - BC Mary.

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Comments:
Amen to that! Thanks for posting this, Mary.
 
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Many thanks, Curly.

I think we need to pay a lot more attention to BC's Public Affairs Bureau.

For one thing: can it really be legal to use taxpayers' money for (unbeknown to them) political purposes?

Does BC really need a newsroom bigger than any other newsroom in the country?

Can it be fair to "forgive" student loans for young PAB employees based on their PAB time served? No pressure there, eh?

I'm trying to find answers even to simple questions, like: Who is the client? Who sets the PAB policies?

Contributions welcome. Very welcome indeed, secrecy being one of the major problems with PAB.

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Excellent post BC Mary!

Its interesting to note that the "offer" from the BC Liberal Government to its unionized employees to take days off without pay to better enhance the bottom line in the treasury, will not in anyway bother the PAB. They are all non-union and therefore not party to a collective agreement and its benefits, BUT the benefits they do receive are done via the Premier's office eg. Jessica MacDonald and Lara Dauphinee.

The Premier should do the honourable thing and fire everyone of the PAB and then have the BC Liberal Party re-hire them.
 
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Right, NVG, about PAB being unaffected by the austerity measures.

Maybe you can help me work out the answer to a question about forgiving a Student Loan based upon years of satisfactory P.A.V. employment.

Question: when does a bonus cross the line and become a bribe?

Another question: is this "bonus" available to any other government employees?

If not, isn't that discriminatory?

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"Hey PAB

That's the way you do it

Hide the truth

and let the lies run free


Hey PAB

No more Student Debt

Money for nothing

and Lara for Free


(bridge)
Gotta move them

barely cooked stories

Gotta make the lies

seem to really be-ee-eee


Hey there PAB

That's the way you do it

Jessica for Nothing

And Lara for Free"


Apologies to Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits and "Money for Nothing"

(though it is appropriate that a tune by a band with that name would be so applicable to today's British Columbia, which is indeed in Dire Straits.
 
The BC government offers student loan forgiveness for BC student loans for it's employees, not just in PAB. Those who already have loans are supposed to be automatically enrolled, new people are supposed to apply. This is one of the incentives to recruit & retain employees to the public sector.

They have to do something, a vast number of the public sector will be retiring and there may be very little competent "talent" who will be left behind to move up. We should all care about who will be left to create and provide what might be left of the public service after they've sold off what they could.

In time of fiscal cuts, it's very difficult for the BC government to justify the numbers in the PAB. It is to be expected they will have that department, but not in he numbers they have and certainly not when these mental giants and leaders of BC don't cut their own salaries, cut all of the deadwood management around and aren't replacing staff on the front lines. It's just fiscal mismanagement all over the place with these people, but that's what a few million of our taxpayer funds into the PAB gets, spin, lies and deceit to deflect from it all. And with an Opposition which isn't fighting back the way it should be and a mainstream media that's abrogated it's moral duty to inform, it's up to all of us to keep getting the word out to whomever we can.
 
Many thanks, BCLS, but I'm not sure if I feel better knowing that ALL government employees are entitled to have their student loans forgiven ... that's pretty rich compared to other young folks who are working in a bank or retail store or teaching or driving a truck or working on a farm -- and struggling to pay back their student loans out of their incomes.

You mention the mainstream media not fulfilling its moral duty to inform ... I've had the feeling for quite a while (throughout the election campaign, for sure) that the P.A.B. was virtually writing CanWest's scripts for them.

Which would explain how Gordo's Gang created The Golden Era ... while the NDP is bad, ba-a-ad!

This poor province ... honestly.

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I've always been told that real gold doesn't tarnish. Curious then, that BC, billed as the "Best Place on Earth", on the brink of a "Golden Decade", needs to employ such a large (PAB) contingent of gold polishers. The finer things in life - be they commodities, virtues, or good public policies, etc - can withstand intense scrutiny and don't need constant buffing.
 
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