Premier Rachel Notley criticized for politicizing government communications
NDP refuse to remove video containing partisan statements from government website
The Opposition Wildrose are accusing Premier Rachel Notley of hypocrisy for criticizing the politicization of government communications while in opposition, and then doing exactly the same thing within months of attaining power.
The Wildrose criticism follows the fledgling NDP government's refusal to acknowledge it is breaching government policy by posting a political statement on a taxpayer-funded government website.
In a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce last week, Notley endorsed federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
An employee of the publicly funded Public Affairs Bureau (PAB), the apolitical communications arm of the Alberta government, videotaped the speech. The video and a transcript of the speech were posted on alberta.ca, a government website managed by the PAB.
"The premier of Alberta and the NDP party can't use government resources for partisan purposes; they just can't," Wildrose accountability critic Jason Nixon said. "By putting a blatantly political statement in a speech, and then putting it up on alberta.ca they are clearly using an apolitical website for political purposes and that is unacceptable."
The premier of Alberta and the NDP party can't use government resources for partisan purposes; they just can't.- Wildrose accountability critic Jason Nixon
The Alberta government's communications policy specifically prohibits the use of partisan language in government communications. It says the government must "respect the integrity and impartiality of the Alberta Public Service in keeping with the Alberta Code of Conduct and Ethics.
"Partisan political matters are the exclusive domain of Ministers and their offices," the policy states.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, Notley's press secretary, Cheryl Oates, did not directly respond to the issue of public resources being used for partisan purposes.
"Premier Notley noted in the speech how she was planning to vote, and then in her next breath said that whoever won, as premier she would work with the federal government in pursuit of Alberta's interests — including the need to make progress on infrastructure, health care, climate change, and First Nations issues," Oates said in the statement.
Oates did not respond to a follow-up email from CBC News seeking an explanation for how the posted partisan statements were an appropriate use of public resources.
Nixon said it's "alarming" Notley doesn't accept she crossed a line by posting the partisan statement on a government website. He said the video should be immediately removed.
While in opposition, Notley was a sharp critic of the politicalization of public communications by the PAB. In a June, 2013 interview with CBC, she criticized the government of then-premier Alison Redford for inserting partisan statements into government news releases.
"The PC party sees the government of Alberta, and the taxpayers' dollars that we all provide them, as their political playground toy and they see it as something they can do with whatever they please," Notley said.
Notley also told CBC that sort of blatant political messaging is an abuse of the taxpayer-funded PAB.
The PAB had, for decades, been criticized by opposition parties, including the NDP, as a propaganda arm for the ruling Tories, which repeatedly named partisans to head up the bureau.
The video of Notley's speech is posted on a government website managed by the PAB. Last month, the Notley government appointed Mark Wells, the NDP party's former director of communications, as the bureau's managing director.
At the time, Nixon said the appointment showed the PAB would "continue its lousy history of being nothing more than a partisan wing of the premier's office.
"Albertans were hoping that a new government would at least end these types of practices, instead it's just more of the same," Nixon said.