Former Yukon Commissioner Doug Bell fed up with spin

Doug Bell says that in the 1980s, the Yukon Government made do with one government employee handling public relations. Now there are 50, and he’s not sure it’s money well spent.

'I don’t know why you can’t talk straight and tell the facts as you have them'

A former Yukon politician, and former publisher of the Yukon News, says he'd like to see Yukoners tell politicians they don't want to pay for spin.

When Doug Bell was Yukon’s Commissioner, from December 1980 to March 1986, he wrote his own news releases and speeches.

He says he never imagined the Yukon Government would be spending millions of dollars on communications advisors.  

“It was, certainly when I first arrived, a straight-talking town,” he says of Whitehorse.

Bell was a senior bureaucrat in government at a time when there was only one government employee handling public relations.

A look through the latest Yukon Government telephone directory shows listings for 48 communications advisors, analysts, supervisors, managers and directors.

Bell isn’t sure that’s taxpayer money well spent.

“I don’t know why you can’t talk straight and tell the facts as you have them,” he says. “If you tell people what the facts are as you know them at this moment, then I think you’re dealing with the truth.”

Bell says it is possible for politicians to change their minds down the road, as information changes.

Ira Basen is an award winning investigative journalist who’s been associated with the CBC for nearly three decades.

He says taxpayers may have a hard time convincing politicians to trim down the PR machine.

“From the point of view of politicians. this is money well spent because it helps to preserve their jobs,” Basen says.  

Bell says Yukoners should tell their politicians they don't want tax dollars spent on spin.

“We pay their salary and that really bothers me.”


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