This is the moment to reform government spending on PR, Globe and Mail (Online edition). April 20, 2005
There is a recurring cycle in Canada: governments engage in massive self-promotion, sparking a public backlash. The opposition party promises to cut back on public relations spending, and invariably breaks its promise once in power. This short piece suggests some simply policy reforms to break the cycle.
[This was written before the Harper government took power and subjected Canadians to an unending barrage of puffery that, even by our standards, is astonishing.]
“Pastoral power in the age of partnership: Health Canada and the Jr. Jays Club,” Canadian Review of Social Policy, no. 51 (2003).
(From the introduction) “In the spring of 1994, visitors to McDonald’s received a copy of Jr. Jays Magazine. On the front cover, Ronald McDonald and various other colonizers of children’s fantasy life picnic in front of a rustic McDonald’s cottage, beside which stands a hamburger-shaped tank, ready to defend the sacred arches. A blanket is laden with junk food and a space creature arrives with more of the same. The sun is reaching out, trying to grab the space creature’s food. The whole of creation is subject to a yearning for fries and a Big Mac.
While the front cover is predictable, the back cover is not: there alongside the golden arches one finds the logo of Health Canada. The booklet is the product of the ‘Junior Jays Digest and Kids Club,’ formed by Health Canada to ‘promote the concepts of a positive, healthy lifestyle’ to seven-to-twelve year olds (Community Programs Group, 1994). The promotion of ‘healthy lifestyles’ through the marketing of junk food is rather startling, but it teaches us something about the operation of the state’s ‘pastoral power’ in this age of ‘reinvented’ government.
This paper seeks both to explore some of the risks of public-private partnerships, and to present a fruitful way of using Michel Foucault’s (1988) concept of pastoral power. The first section will offer a brief overview of that concept, and of social marketing and partnership. After describing the Jr. Jays’ message, I will argue that the program was made possible both by the multiple objectives pursued by government social marketing, and by a general orientation towards ‘stakeholders’ and partnership. I will conclude by reviewing some insights suggested by the case.”
“Subverting Government Business ,” The Canadian Forum 77, no. 871, July/August 1998, pp. 14-19.
[Reprinted as: “Compromising Partnerships,” in Words in Common: Essays for Canadians on Language, Culture and Society, ed. Gillian Thomas (Toronto: Addison Wesley Longman, 1999)]
This was my original short piece on the program of Health Canada (the Canadian government’s health ministry) encouraging children to eat more junk food and watch more television.
“Of Miniature Mila and Flying Geese: Government Advertising and Canadian Democracy ,” in How Ottawa Spends, ed. Susan Phillips. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1995.
(From the intro) “The Canadian government has a unique passion for educating the citizenry through advertisements. A 1987 study of forty-one countries found Canada to be the only place where the government was the top advertiser. The federal government, including its crown corporations, became the country’s largest advertiser in the mid-1970s, and has led the country in advertising almost every year since. The government has used advertisements to inform us about ‘children’s needs,’ remind us that we can talk to other family members during breakfast, convince us that fish are ‘modern and exciting,’ persuade us that the GST is ‘fair, visible, and modern,’ and assure us that ‘Yes We Can’ compete in the global marketplace…
This paper will explore the implications of government advertising… We will examine six questions concerning advertising:
- How does policy advertising affect the power of office?
- What are the objectives of behaviour modification advertising?
- How does policy advertising affect the role of Parliament?
- How does advertising affect the quality of policy debate?
- How does advertising affect government-media relations?
- What are the implications of advertising ‘partnerships’?”