It’s not surprising that most Canadians don’t know what the Privy Council Office does. The PCO is designed that way. Gordon Robertson, a former Clerk of the PCO, says that it should be “kept deliberately small.”
However, under Prime Minister Harper the PCO has become a bloated propaganda arm of Conservative Party. You will have seen the Conservative ads produced by them pretending to be public information.
The number of officers in the PCO has grown from ten in 1945 to 128 officers in 2008 with a budget of $10.4 million says Professor Kozolanka from Carleton University in the CCPA Monitor. The PCO received an extra $7.5 million to advertise the government’s so-called Economic Action Plan.
While the advertising of government programs is a legitimate function of the PCO, Harper’s corruption of it extends well beyond legitimate. Ads for the Economic Action Plan extended well past the stimulus spending they were meant to advertise. They are awash in Tory blue and were brought to us, not by the Government of Canada as they were supposed to but by the “Harper Government.” I don’t recall becoming a citizen of Harperland.
The Economic Action Plan has been exploited to sell everything from the federal budget to Conservative campaigning. In the first quarter of 2011, the government spend $26 million on ads that had nothing to do will stimulus spending and everything to getting themselves re-elected. In the same year, the budget for the PCO hit a record high of $160 million.
The PM’s misappropriation of the Privy Council Office serves to educate Canadians on how this obscure branch of government should work explains former Clerk Gordon Robertson.
“The Prime Minister’s Office is partisan, politically oriented yet operationally sensitive. The Privy Council Office is non-partisan, operationally oriented yet politically sensitive.”
The Prime Minister’s Office is still partisan, politically oriented, but now the PCO has now become a partisan propaganda arm of the PMO.
If this kind of misuse of government agencies seems familiar, think back to the sponsorship scandal. That’s when the Chrétien inflated the Cabinet Committee on Communications to serve his own partisan ends.
Like the PCO, it was a good idea gone bad. While the distribution of Canadian flags seemed like a good way of promoting the Canadian brand, the Gomery Inquiry found that most of the money went into Quebec to shore up crucial Liberal support and that $145 million went into inflated fees of crony ad agencies and $100 million back into the pockets of the Liberal Party through kickbacks.
Now the Conservatives are up the same tricks as the Liberals. Instead of using the Committee on Communications to shovel money into their own ridings, they are using the PCO.
Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair is on to something when he suggests a fresh start. His government should be given a chance to sweep the bad smell out of Ottawa left by the Liberals and the Conservatives. I even have a slogan Mulcair can use. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, vote NDP.” No kickback required.