Province recycles old quotes in new press announcements
Cathy Rogers' quotes from Tuesday press release match previous statements by Gallant, Fraser
Several quotes attributed to Finance Minister Cathy Rogers in a Tuesday press release matched quotes, word for word, ascribed to Premier Brian Gallant and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser four months ago.
But according to the province, they were not plagiarized.
"It is not unusual for two different Ministers to convey a similar idea in two different releases about the same subject," wrote Department of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesman Jeff Hull in an email to CBC News.
"It would be more unusual for Ministers to disagree."
Not a mistake, said province
The Gallant government has been issuing press announcements at an accelerated pace this year but the province insists that recycling quotes among different ministers was not a mistake.
On the government news feed Tuesday, Rogers announced plans to spend $20 million this year on retrofitting government buildings. The press release was mostly pasted together from another release put out in January about similar spending last year.
"By making our schools and hospitals more energy efficient we will reduce operating costs, provide local construction jobs and protect the environment," was one of the quotes attributed to Gallant in January and then reattributed to Rogers on Tuesday.
High workload for communications staff
Quotes from Fraser were also cribbed.
"These investments represent a serious commitment to energy conservation and to managing our public assets in a responsible way," said Rogers at one point, exactly echoing what Fraser said four months earlier.
Hull said the identical quotes are simply "ministers conveying the same idea about the long-term benefits of conserving energy," but the unusual release does come during a period of high workload for communications people working for the Gallant government.
St. Thomas University Journalism professor Michael Camp said accuracy in government press releases is an important issue.
"Communications people are just as hung up on ethical issues as journalists," said Camp.
"It's just as bad for a communications person — especially one in the public sector or in the policy-making process — to plagiarize or otherwise misrepresent material they are presenting to the public."
Rogers' statement on retrofitting buildings was the government's 434th release of 2017.
That's 121 (39 per cent) more than at the same time last year, and the most by any New Brunswick government this early in the year since 2010.
No major influence on voters
Don Mills heads the region's oldest active polling firm, Corporate Research Associates, and said it is typical for governments to make more announcements during the second half of their term.
He said he's not sure it does much to move voters one way or another.
"Trying to get good news stories out is all about propping up support for the government," said Mills, whose firm is currently in the middle of three weeks of polling New Brunswick adults on their voter preferences. "I have not seen a lot of evidence of (announcements) having a major impact on the outcome of a poll."
UNB political scientist JP Lewis said a slip-up in government messaging, like obviously recycling material, is unlikely to have an impact on voters unless it happens frequently.
"You'd hope they would check (messages) so they don't end up plagiarizing themselves," said Lewis. "This type of behaviour doesn't instil a lot of inspiration in voters but it takes a long time to have an effect."