Stacking the lines, part 3

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More input from former government employees

My posts about political operatives continue to generate new comments from others who have worked within government, and each one adds something new to the discussion, while bringing us closer to the centre of the story.

I offer today comments from three individuals, who all wish to remain anonymous because either they or their sources are still employed by government. Incidentally, I do know all of these individuals and can confirm their identities and past work experience.

My first comment is a response to Thursday's post, in which a former government communications person said their instructions were not to participate in Open Line.

"It was well known that political staffers were expected to round up the troops and call in to Open Line etc on hot issues, but as a public servant I was never asked to do that," the person said.

Here's what another former insider said in response to that:

"If that person was in communications at a Director level under the Grimes administration, they are feeding you a line. Comm's Director staff were POLITICAL and not public servants under Grimes (except for a few jr comm's assistants). Then when this crowd came in they made them all "public servants" (and I use the quotes deliberately because that's widely recognized as a sham).

"The other related thing to note, besides stacking the lines, is the exercise in monitoring and coordinating the response. These days, the monitoring is done by 10th floor public servants and their contractors who look for any mention of any department or minister for policy issues OR purely political ones on any talk radio show. Then they call the minister to respond ASAP no matter what issue is raised. Their rapid-response system is how they seem so johnny-on-the-spot. And they use public servants to make that all happen.

"You can take it as an article of faith that this is not mere speculation on my part."

Then there was this comment from another former provincial government employee.

Political operatives organize and coordinate it. Government-side in-house political operatives, voluntary political operatives and key 'lay' party members are all given direction (and often talking points, generated by communications people and other public servants for ministers' use) to call on particular topics.

Communications personnel in Communications Branch are and were public service employees. They were required to monitor, analyze and advise on response to talk radio, but not to call. Making partisan calls would undermine their professional reputation for balance and fairness in doing their core jobs.

Line department new or junior communications personnel have occasionally been asked to call, by both administrations, especially if they are politically connected. When they (and their voices) became/become better known to media, they were no longer asked to do so.

I never worked in the opposition office, but had I had friends there and my sense is that there is (and was) less if any line-stacking directed out of there. This may be due to lack of resources - fewer communications staff to draft the talking points, fewer political staff to rally the volunteer troops, fewer volunteer troops, etc... This is yet another area where her majesty's loyal opposition is out-gunned by her majesty's government.

Of course, there are still callers challenging government on a partisan basis, but that is usually self-directed, except during election time.

This is a fascinating and very useful bit of public discussion. I think it really helps for people to understand how this particular talk radio environment works.

You can read more about this subject from the entertaining and opinionated Ed Hollett, and his Sir Robert Bond Papers blog. Search for the term pitcher plant' and you will get loads of reading material.

In the meantime, keep those cards and letters coming, folks!

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