The Harper Government Press Releases: At $500 a pop

Ever wonder how much it costs the federal government to send out a press release announcing it is handing out your money? I have. And so, apparently, did Liberal MP Scott Andrews.

Last month, Andrews formally asked the government, through an Order Paper question in the House of Commons, about the costs associated with a March 11, 2013 event in which Peter Penashue who was then the Conservative MP for Labrador as well as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs announced that Ottawa would invest $1.35 million so that the towns of North West River and Sheshatshiu would get improved access to high-speed internet services.

Here’s Andrews’ question:

Mr. Andrews (Avalon)- With regard to the March 11, 2013, anouncement regarding broadband improvements for Labrador communities, what are aU the costs associated with the event, including (i) writing, translating and transmission of press releases, (ii) printing, (iii) production ofbackdrops, banners, or other visual material, (iv) travel and accommodation for any participants, (v)rental of equipment or facilities, (vi) any other costs?

And here’s the answers, as tabled by the government in the House of Commons at the end of last week (Sessional Paper 8555-411-1225):

  • Cost of writing, translating, and transmission of press releases: $534.38
  • Other costs: $400.00
  • Travel and acommodation: $2,349.15

So, in this case, Ottawa spent $3,283.53 in order to hand out $1.35 million. Fair enough.

But what piqued my interest here is that the cost of “writing, translating and transmission of press releases” was pegged at $534.38. That, it seems to me, would be a cost that would be roughly the same for every press release the government issues to hand out money. And, so far as I can tell, there have been 3,156 press releases since the May, 2011 election in which the “Harper Government” announced it was giving someone some money.

Do the math and you’ll see that “The Harper Government” has spent $1.7 million telling people it is spending money.

Among those 3,156 press releases are ones like this one on Aug 15, 2011 when Ron Cannan, the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country announced, on behalf of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, that  Did it cost $500 to issue a press release to tell us about a grant of $1,000?

On May 24, 2012, Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney issued nearly 20 press releases in his name that day  announcing funds for cenotaph restorations across the country, including $2,000 to restore a cenotaph in Dunrobin, Ont. Did each one of those cost $500 to issue that press release?

When Conservative  MP Kevin Sorenson announced, on behalf of Minister of State Lynne Yelich, that Hemaruka Community Hall would get $2,032 of federal funds, was an extra $500 spent telling us that?

There are about 100 announcements in the last couple of years in which a press release was issued in both official languages on a national wire service announcing handouts of less than $10,000.

Am I complaining? Not really. If the government did not spend $500 on each of those releases, I might never have known about them and I very much want to know where very dollar goes that our government spends.  I hope I’m like at least a handful of other Canadians in that I want to know about all this spending.

So, as I mentioned at the top of this post, our leaders have spent $1.35 million to produce and distribute press releases in both official languages to tell us about more than 3,000 spending announcements. To you and me, a million dollars sounds like a lot. But not when you consider this: Those 3,000+ press releases have announced a total of more than $22 billion in cheques that Ottawa has handed out.


5 thoughts on “The Harper Government Press Releases: At $500 a pop”

  1. You might have included an estimate of dealing with Andrew’s question which I would reckon is in the $thousands, given my experience working with the feds for 3 years. When a minister got a question it typically took my staff (BC regional office) of 7 a whole morning of ferreting out data to get an answer to Ottawa by noon – probably for a 2 minute response in parliament!

  2. It’s funny how the media find government spending on communicating with people distasteful — unless, of course, government is spending directly buying ad space in their publications.

  3. That particular release for Penashue might be more expensive for translation services than just the usual English/French ones. So it may not be fair to use that number $500 as a base to calculate the final tab.

  4. I wonder how much of the $534.38 is salary for communications employees? As such, it would be an expense that would have to be paid regardless. Also, for Hugh Millar’s comment, again the salary costs of ATI requests are expenses that would be paid if requests were being acted upon or not.

  5. MyView do you have any evidence that the press release was translated into any language besides English or French?

    Hugh Millar, open-ness and the Parliamentary system costs money. Suck it up, buttercup. It’s interesting to see how the Harper Tories are going apes**t over the cost of answering questions. Trying to hide much?

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