Spike in spindoctors beneficial to Yukoners: government

The Yukon government outnumbers the Northwest Territories and Nunavut combined when it comes to flak-catchers, with 51 at its disposal. That's up from having approximately 40 communications staff in 2009.

The Yukon government outnumbers the Northwest Territories and Nunavut combined when it comes to flak-catchers, with 51 at its disposal.

That’s up from having approximately 40 communications staff in 2009.

Some departments, such as Education, have added significant manpower – six years ago, it had one communications person on staff, while today it has at least five.

But that increase can explained by a variety of reasons, explains Sarah Crane, director of communications for the Executive Council Office.

“The number of communications people you need is directly related to the programs and services you’re offering,” she said.

“Each department decides what they need to support their programs and services for communications. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a big emphasis on online communications, so that number (51) includes six dedicated web people that have been hired.”

Moreover, there are more dedicated directors of communications nowadays, whereas it used to be more common to have a person in the role of joint director of policy and communications, Crane adds.

“And over the years, the public expectation of access to information and communication has increased, and not just online, but when you look at a number of public consultations that we do, there’s an increase,” she said.

The benefit of having more communications staff is that information is more easily accessible, and transmitted in plain language, Crane explained.

But Liberal Leader Sandy Silver argues that having more communications staff is not necessarily beneficial to Yukoners.

“The irony here is that communications personnel in general are supposed to be there to engage information sharing – but I would say that under the direction of this extremely secretive Yukon Party government, they end up doing damage control and spin as a daily job,” he said.

“It’s funny because these salaries come from the taxpayer, so the public is actually paying to be misled.”

Because the government makes decisions in silos, he said, they have control over the messaging and communications passed along to Yukoners, he added.

He referred to the amendments made to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act back in 2012, when the Yukon Party made changes that restricted public access to some government documents, including briefing reports prepared for ministers.

In a report prepared by the information and privacy commissioner at the time, he pointed out that some of the territory’s new measures to restrict access to information were without precedent in Canada.

One section of the act, since changed to become more restrictive, was instrumental in uncovering the government had misled the public about the budget for the F.H. Collins school replacement project, said Silver.

“Secrecy and spin is the modus operandi of these guys,” he said.

Jim Butler, longtime editor of the Whitehorse Star, said he remembers a time in the 1980s as a political reporter when it was a lot easier to get in touch with people in government.

He said it was common back then to call department officials, deputy ministers and even ministers directly.

“Straightforward and simple,” he said.

“Now, reporters sometimes have to wait several hours for a communications person to call back, let alone begin the process of speaking directly to the official with the information they’re seeking. Communications personnel have their purpose, of course, but their presence doesn’t necessarily speed up and simplify the flow of news, and by extension, the process of informing the public about the government’s activities.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read