With preset election dates, political parties no longer have to wait until the writ is dropped to officially begin campaigning.
But no matter which party is in office, the sitting government will always have the upper hand in the propaganda battle. As we’ve seen in the past few months, and especially with this week’s budget day, the B.C. Liberals have provided numerous “good news” items to fire out at the media for dissemination.
Luckily for our readers and those of other Black Press publications in Greater Victoria, you have a filter to help avoid being inundated with old news. In an election year, the re-announcements of funding long since committed to, or jobs that have been completed are frequent.
We’re not saying politicians and civil servants don’t work hard and deserve a level of recognition for their efforts. It’s just that in the run-up to an election, the back-slapping and glad-handing gets amped up in a big way.
So how much does the government P.R. machine get cranking during this period, you ask? One of our compatriots at the Chilliwack Progress took the time to tally up the government press releases sent out since Nov. 9, six months out from the May 9 election. As of last Friday, Liberal communications reps had churned out 943 releases, many of which followed a personal appearance by a minister.
The releases sent out during the same time period in the previous three non-election years were roughly half that number or less. A similar pattern appeared before the 2013 election.
Our eyebrows raise when we hear program announcements that appear to come out of the blue, or are a reversal of previous government policy. The optics of those flip-flops screams election ploy. They are low-hanging fruit for government critics in the opposition and among special interest groups, whose own ramped-up PR machines do their best to keep up with the governments.’
B.C. governments’ ability to promote programs and “success stories” with little oversight brings great potential for ads or press conferences to morph into partisan plugs, especially as election day draws nearer.
An unwanted or irrelevant press release is easy to ignore. But it’s important that we all learn to discern when government promotion crosses the line into partisan propaganda.