Provincial government, opposition square off over PR staff numbers, salaries
Published Monday, November 26, 2012 4:58PM CST
Last Updated Monday, November 26, 2012 6:25PM CST
The province is being accused of spending millions of dollars on staff to spin information in a positive light about the Selinger government.
The PC Party of Manitoba says documents show the NDP government has boosted public relations staff by 60 per cent since 1999, but the province disputes that and says the Tories are inflating the numbers.
“When we report communications on safe roads, that is important to public safety,” said Premier Greg Selinger.
PC officials say the provincial government is spending too much money on too many public relations staffers.
The Tories say documents show the province has 192 people working as communications employees, with those salaries adding up to more than $12 million a year.
The Tories say 15 of those workers make more than $100,000 each.
PC officials said the province has 72 more PR employees than when the Tories were in power in the 1990s.
“There is that many communications staff buffering between honest civil servants who have the information and the people who want the information - spinning the information the way the government wants it spun,” said Brian Pallister, leader of the PC party.
The positions include political staffers and those working for Crown corporations and universities.
The province denies it has filled those agencies with party sympathizers in the areas of marketing and public relations.
“To make that argument by the leader of the opposition is a bit grasping,” said Dave Chomiak, the province's minister of innovation, energy and mines.
The province says it has the same number of political communications people on staff as the Filmon government did in the 1990s, adding that Crown corporations and government agencies do more public awareness campaigns now about safety.
“A lot of public health campaigns, and campaigns that provide information in terms of Hydro in terms of highways in terms of workers’ safety,” said Chomiak.
The Tories say this proves it is not a level playing field at the Manitoba legislature, pointing to the fact it has only one person dedicated to communications. No one with the PC party would comment on that person’s salary.
PC party officials obtained the details on the province’s communication staff numbers and salaries through a freedom of information request.