Inside Politics

Search terms reveal which issues - and MPs - are on the government's radar

The revelation that taxpayer-funded media monitoring firms have been instructed to track references to dozens of Conservative MPs has prompted both bemusement and amusement on the opposition benches.

During Question Period on Thursday, New Democrat treasury board critic Mathieu Ravignat called on the government to explain how it can justify spending millions to keep tabs on its own backbench, while the Liberal caucus communications team wrapped up the week by speculating, via press release, why some Conservatives may have ended up on "Stephen Harper's Watch List".. 

(Former acting Liberal Leader Bob Rae took to twitter to jokingly reassure his caucus colleagues that he "didn't spend a nickle monitoring their activities in the media - even on an interim basis.") 

Meanwhile, PMO communications director Andrew MacDougall responded to the uproar with his trademark wry sarcasm:

(Interestingly, although MacDougall's name doesn't appear anywhere in the PCO files, the entry for his predecessor, Dimitri Soudas, is apparently still active.)

On that note, it is, perhaps, worth pointing out that Conservative MPs are far from the only ones to make it onto the PCO alert list, which also includes all federal party leaders -- including Bloc Quebecois leader Daniel Paille, who doesn't yet hold a seat in the House. 

It also features the names of the three Conservative senators at the centre of the recent expense controversy -- Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin  -- although not, interestingly, Mac Harb, who resigned from the Liberal Senate caucus earlier this week over his own rebate dispute with the audit. 

Not surprisingly, PCO tracks references to departments and agencies, ministers and parliamentary secretaries, senior civil servants and key legislation, as well as identifiers such as "Conservative government," "le PM" and "Tories," and broad terms like "diamonds," "general advice," "honour crimes," "privatization" and "serial killer," which is almost certainly a reference to media coverage of Luke Magnotta.

The details of the list were tabled in the House earlier this week as part of the government's nearly 1,500-page response to Liberal MP John McCallum's written request for the search terms used in all media monitoring contracts since April 2011.

Last year, the Canadian Press reported that the government has spent thousands of dollars to monitor ethnic media. 

The complete list of PCO search terms, as extracted from the full report:

Response to Q1253 (,media monitoring search terms) by kady23

Tags: blackberry jungle, media monitoring, order paper question watch, PCO

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