Three things to know about government communications in Canada:
- Communications is a core management function that public organizations use to control the flow of information between themselves and their audiences. It is made up of twenty specific activities, including strategic communications planning, issues management, correspondence, and advertising.
- Governments use communications in two ways: procedurally, to influence the behaviour of individuals and groups within policy processes (i.e., Privy Council Office), and substantively, to affect how goods and services are produced and consumed (i.e., Toronto Transit Commission) (or some combination thereof [i.e., Health Canada]). The specific kind and exact mix of instrumentation used by any one department is determined by that department’s mandate and overall role in government.
- Communications is a highly centralized – and centralizing – function in Canadian government due to the dominance of our political executives and the partisanship that emanates from our party system. These factors can facilitate the abuse of communications in Canadian government and drags it at times into the “swampy zone” that exists between “information and propaganda and between public and partisan interests.”
Three misconceptions about government communications in Canada:
Myth #1: A large proportion of public servants are dedicated to communications work.