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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 26, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednesday, February 26, 1975 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 21 Critics question efficiency of gov 't PR machine Supreme Court By MICHAEL LAVOIE OTTAWA (CP) The Fed- eral government is plunging ever deeper into the high-roll- ing world of public relations, 'with'a bankroll said to exceed million annually backing an information bureacracy of 883 persons at last count-. That represents growth of more than 100 per cent in five years. The ranks of the function- aries continue to are 403 vacancies as and the hardware assembled for helping spread the mes- sage includes fully-equipped TV. studios. It is an entrenched informa- tion and propaganda machine of imposing proportions that seeks to buff the federal im- age to a high gloss by pub- lishing, broadcasting and sometimes suppressing facts and opinions about the gov- ernment and those who run it. Critics, including some who work, within the machine, have been asking if bigger really means better. They say only a handful of departments and agencies, such as the agriculture de- partment with its appeal to a specific audience, are doing a justifiable public relations job. The people in charge say they do not know how much it all costs, though a Senate in- vestigation last sprung said million was a good guess. In addition, they say they have little idea how effec- tively the machine is improv- ing communications between the people and the govern- ment. Some say they doubt things have improved much since 1969-when a study on in- formation reported that Cana- dians were woefully ignorant of government programs: Critics say there still is much truth in the 1969 study's complaint that the propa- ganda machine is riddled with inefficiency and waste. .For example, the critics talk about: spending spree that outfitted 50 departments and agencies with expensive tele- vision production equipment, some of it reported on the verge of breakdown after three to five years of use. dispatching of a health department film crew to the 1972 Olympics in Mun- ich without proper creden- tials. Denied admission to the games, the crew took pictures of the stadium which became part of a 25-minute children's movie called It's Not The Win- ning. timidity of the Public Service Commission in .scrapping plans to publish an ndex of training films when a count revealed a larger iaer of English-language films than French. days, even weeks, frequently iaken by govern- ment information offices to produce a simple press re- lease or speech and the bursts of frantic, eleventh-hour ac- tivity on overtime pay when deadlines draw near. At the Indian and northern affairs department, most public pro- nouncements are screened and approved 'by at least seven persons. man who quit his full- time information job with the government and was hired back on a part-time contract basis. As an outsider he was paid about the same for two days of work weekly as he had been for five. The federal information machine functions in almost every one of the 91 departments and agencies and has even spawned a separate organization, Information Canada to make contact with the public. Its authorized strength has risen to from 556 in of the growth re- sulting from a 1973 job recl- assification which drew a number of existing civil ser- vants into the information machine. The 863 staff members ac- tually on strength, 113 more than a year ago, are often anointed in Ottawa with the pejorative "government flacks." The Public Service Com- mission, the government hir- ing agency, is trying to recruit 130 information officers to fill some of the vacancies. These numbers do not in- clude the scores of part-time editors, writers and film-mak- ers who work under freelance contracts. Relatively high pay contin- ues to lure job-seekers to the government information serv- ice from newspapers, broad- casting stations, journalism schools and other government departments. About 800 organized infor- mation officers won a 12.4- per-cent cost-of-living pay in- crease Jan. 1, putting most of them in the a-year pay range. Another .65 in executive categories stand to win increases this spring in salaries that run as high as The rapid growth of the Ot- tawa information machine be- gan with the 1969 study which reported that almost half of all Canadians were "politi- cally handicapped" because of their ignorance of govern- ment programs. 'This led to formation in 1970 of Information Canada which now has a staff of 573. in- cluding 40 information offi- cers, an annual budget of million arid a mandate to co- ordinate information pro- grams in all departments. The agency is also supposed fo measure the effectiveness of the programs, sell books, answer inquiries and open di- rect contacts with the public through a system of mobile in- formation offices. G. R. C'Avignon, Infocan says the em- battled agency now is begin- ning to prove itself after a dif- ficult five-year growing pe- riod. It'has been the target of some-resentment and distrust by opposition politicians, the press and the existing infor- mation establishment. Resistance from the estab- lishment has pretty well pre- vented Information Canada from acting as first among equals. This existing establishment has its own professional socie- ty of sorts, the Information Services Institute, and a super-group of 45 senior fune- tionarics which is steered by a 12-member advisory com- mittee. This committee, sometimes called the "12 is composed of the most exalted executive-level people in the system. It makes many of the crucial decisions leading, so far, to steady ex- pansion of the information bureaucracy. Chief of the advisory com- mittee is Brig.-Gen. L. C. Morrison, head of the 85- member defence department information unit, who says the committee meets monthly and the super-group twice a year to talk about the care and feeding of information of- ficers. "There is no place you can duplicate this sort of thing anywhere in Gen. Morrison says of his pool of bureaucratic talent. KELAX STANDARDS LISBON (Reuter) The Portuguese Army is per- mitting soldiers to wear long hair and beards, but with restrictions. Hair cannot hang over foreheads, ears or collars 'and beards have to be kept clean. Since last year's military coup many soldiers are affecting the Che Guevara look. hearing on CTC powers OTTAWA (CP) Supreme Court of Canada hearings on whether the Canadian tran- sport commission has the power to delay increases in railway freight rates will not be held until late April, a court official said Tuesday. The hearings, originally scheduled for March 18, were postponed at the request of all Pacific Ltd., Canadian National Rail- ways Co. and the provinces. The case is the first item On the docket for the spring assizes that begin April 22, but opening ceremonies probably would delay the actual hear- ing until April 23, the court of- ficial said. The freight rates picture has been confused since the start of the year. The rates were raised per cent Jan. 1. following the transport commission's ruling that the 25-per-cent increase requested by the railways should be granted in two stages. COMPLETE WITH MARBLIQUE TOPS VANITIES We have a great selection of vanities now in stock and aii are now slashed in price. Modernize your bathroom today and save. 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