• The death of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty made front pages, headlines and broadcasts across the country. But it’s likely many Canadians didn’t even know who he was. In 2011, the Canadian Election Study asked 4,308 respondents to the name the country’s finance minister. Just 32 percent said Flaherty or an approximation of his name. By comparison, 68.1 percent didn’t know the identity of the Harper administration’s finance minister.
• The hacks may far outnumber the flacks in North America. But it’s somewhat different story across the Atlantic.
This past week, Ryerson University journalism instructor Ira Basen reported that, according to the 2011 National Household Survey, there were 4.1 self-identified public relations and communications professionals for every journalist in Canada. That’s similar to the United States where the Department of Labour found that, in May 2013, there were 4.6 public relations specialists for every reporter and correspondent.
By comparison, according to the Office for National Statistics, between April and June 2012, there were 1.7 journalists, newspaper and periodical editors for every public relations professional in the United Kingdom.
Like the statistics used in the United States and Canada, those calculations don’t include public relations managers or directors. Moreover, in a November 2012 column, the Independent’s Ian Burrell cited estimates indicating there were 1.5 public relations practitioners for every journalist in that country.
• When Liberal leader Justin Trudeau dropped an f-bomb at a charity event late last month, the Ottawa Citizen described that word as being “decidedly un-prime ministerial language.”
But Trudeau is far from the first elected official to have been caught swearing on an open microphone. Moreover, in my experience covering British Columbian politics, it’s not unknown for elected officials to swear when the microphones are off — having been the target of such expletives on one occasion.
So perhaps Trudeau’s f-bomb should have been described as language that is rarely seen or heard in the news media due to our own community standards and the self-censorship practised by politicians when they are speaking on the record with reporters?
• In Canada, anyone looking into the state of political engagement in this country has to rely on a patchwork of public opinion polls and other data. But in the United Kingdom, the Hansard Society has been conducting an annual audit of political engagement since 2004.
That audit — the latest of which is scheduled to be released at the end of April — measures everything from knowledge and interest in politics to the percentage of people who believe getting involved in politics makes a difference.
According to the society, the study was launched a decade ago “in response to growing concerns about low electoral turnout as particularly evidenced at the 2001 general election” where turnout was 59.4 percent.
Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.
Author’s note: Due to illness, I was unable to publish last week’s look at news about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada.