A press release sent from the office of Conservative Nova Scotia MP Scott Armstrong has revealed that some federal government releases are national templates with fill-in-the-blank sections for district offices.
A draft version of a release was sent in error on Tuesday by Armstrong's communications spokesperson, Stephen McIntosh. It announced $19,500 to improve accessibility for the Amherst branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
It also peeled back the curtain on how some Conservative Party press releases have become standardized across the country.
In Armstrong's release, the blanks could be seen in red font with underlines. It was up to the local office to fill in the date, Armstrong's name, his district, the town, the funding amount, the location and purpose of the renovations.
"It shouldn't have gone out that way," the Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP said.
The rest of the release, in black font, listed general details about the party's Enabling Accessibility Fund. The document also carried the logo of Canada's Economic Action Plan.
Business as usual
Armstrong said that filling in regional information on national press release templates is a regular practice for some district offices in the country.
"For the accessibility announcements, they do a template and what you try to do is adapt it and try to match the announcement that you're making in that particular area," he said.
Armstrong explained that for his announcements, McIntosh — who works in Truro — will sometimes fill in the blanks of a Conservative Party template. Those changes are then sent to Armstrong — who works in Amherst — for approval.
"The template is done by the [local] office that sends it out because they don't know a lot about your particular buildings, right? Then we try to fill in the blanks with details about what's going on in that particular building," he said.
Armstrong told CBC News he couldn't see the red font when he was reviewing the draft because he was using an old computer. After CBC contacted him, he saw a draft version on his BlackBerry.
When the first line of the Armstrong press release is Googled word for word, with the exception of the location, the top results feature Conservative MP websites:
- Richard Harris: Cariboo-Prince George (British Columbia)
- Leon Benoit: Vegreville-Wainwright (Alberta)
- Corneliu Chisu: Pickering-Scarborough East (Ontario)
- Guy Lauzon: Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry (Ontario)
Not only do the templates share formatting and wording, they share quotes.
In Armstrong's release, he's quoted as saying, "The Government of Canada is creating opportunities for Canadians with disabilities through Enabling Accessibility Fund support to the ______ project. Thanks to organizations like yours that care about accessibility, we see first-hand how these kind of projects make a real difference in our communities."
Federal Employment and Social Development Minister Pierre Poilievre said the same thing in the accessibility release from Chisu's office.