Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flaherty's spin worked wonderfully on the gullible press and the NDP.

Why not the public?

Focus groups reject Tory spin on income trusts

Flaherty's office denies it planned full PR campaign; says government just tried to gauge whether public informed

May 25, 2007
Allan Woods
Ottawa Bureau
Toronto Star

OTTAWA The Conservative government spent $18,000 testing television advertisements designed to put a positive spin on its broken election promise on income trusts, only to find out they were seen as an attempt to do political "damage control," a report obtained by the Star shows.

But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's office denied yesterday it shelved a full-fledged public relations campaign in response to the negative feedback. Rather, the "television advertising treatments" were produced specifically for February focus groups to see if Canadians needed more information about the government's Tax Fairness plan. The key element of the plan was a decision made last October to tax income trusts contrary to the Tory pledge not to in the last election campaign.

"There were no ads. It was basically to gather some research to determine whether there was a need for any ads," said Dan Miles, a spokesperson for Flaherty. "The decision was that it wasn't necessary."

Income trusts avoid most corporate taxes by distributing profits to unit holders and they were becoming an increasingly popular business structure. They had also become a popular investment vehicle for seniors, so the government's move to end, as of 2011, the tax advantages enjoyed by income trusts compared with regular corporations has sparked protests across the country.

The Tories' campaign promise not to tax income trusts followed the announcement in November 2005 by then-finance minister Ralph Goodale that the Liberal government would not tax the trusts, as many had feared. The NDP then urged the RCMP to investigate claims that major Bay Street players were tipped in advance of the Liberal announcement.

The Mounties chose the middle of the campaign for the Jan. 23, 2006 election to announce they were conducting a criminal investigation, which the Liberals contend contributed to their election defeat. (One finance department tax official has been charged. No politicians or advisers were ever charged.)

The finance department awarded only one contract for advertising services between the Oct. 31 income trust decision and the late-February focus groups รข€“ a $21,000 contract to TMP Worldwide on Jan. 31.

Miles said the government was satisfied with the level of knowledge about the issue and its implications that the public had received through media reports "and we didn't need to add to it."

But an account from the focus groups, conducted by Ipsos-Reid, found awareness of the trust issue to be "very low."

There was also "confusion and frustration" about whether the ads were meant to correct misconceptions about the government's tax plan in general, contained in the March budget, or just about the politically sensitive decision on income trusts.

Two of the three advertisements tell viewers that, "the facts you don't know about income trusts are the facts you should know." But the report's authors noted that they encountered a common criticism: "For an ad that is framed in facts there are very few listed."

One ad featured a shattered piggy bank reassembling and seemed designed to convey the message that the government is protecting programs funded by tax dollars. But it left the focus group cold, feeling the government was defending a political decision, not a policy position.

"Many question the exactness of the information being presented," said the report. "For others, the tone is somewhat accusatory and comes across as finger-pointing, which is seen as less than appropriate for the federal government."

A second ad was seen as "scary," and the third was criticized as "damage control."
"This ad is trying too hard to attack big corporations," one person remarked.
Another participant saw the piggy bank spot as an attempt to "win votes" while another said it was to "justify the fact that they have not kept their promises."


Dr Mike said...

"Miles said the government was satisfied with the level of knowledge about the issue and its implications that the public had received through media reports "and we didn't need to add to it."

What was not to like for these guys!!

The public as well as most MPs did not have a clue as to what an income trust was or the long-term implications of the Tax Fairness Plan.

The media followed a close second--they fell for this thing hook line & sinker--the few in the media that did not , were brow beaten into submission by their corporate owners who held the trust structure in disdain.

So Dan , any further spin was not required.

The very name Tax Fairness said it all---what was not to love.

It`s hard to believe that I could still be this pissed-off by something with Fairness in it`s title.

Dr Mike Popovich.

Robert Gibbs said...

Conservatives In Quebec Illegally Shifted Ad Expenses, Elections Canada Charges

2006 Election May Have Been Won By Conservatives Through Fraudulent Means


The Canadian Press

July 22, 2008 at 9:26 AM (EDIT)

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party illegally shifted thousands of dollars in advertising expenses from two of its top Quebec candidates to other Quebec candidates who had more spending room in their 2006 federal election campaigns, the lawyer for Elections Canada has charged.

A former financial officer for the Conservative party confirmed last month in a court examination that expenses incurred by Public Works Minister Christian Paradis and former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier were inappropriately assigned to other candidates.

Elections Canada lawyer Barbara McIsaac probed Ann O'Grady over records involving claims for radio and TV advertising by Mr. Paradis and advertising claimed by Mr. Bernier.

The financial statements and invoices – filed in a Federal Court case concerning $1.3-million in questionable Conservative ad expenses – also showed that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis paid a fraction of the related ad production costs compared with other Tory candidates.

Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis are among 67 Conservative candidates whose advertising expenditures are under investigation by the federal elections commissioner. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand has refused to reimburse the expenditures on grounds that they did not qualify as local candidate expenses.

The Commons ethics committee is also conducting an inquiry into the bookkeeping, which Elections Canada states allowed the Conservative party to exceed its national campaign spending limit by more than $1-million.

The Canada Elections Act prohibits candidates from absorbing or sharing the election expenses of other candidates.

NDP MP Pat Martin, a member of the ethics committee, said that the Conservative party also shifting expenses from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates adds an entirely new dimension to the controversy. “That's absolutely not allowed.”

In a sworn cross-examination last month, the transcript of which was subsequently entered in the Federal Court file, Ms. McIsaac pressed Ms. O'Grady about advertising and ad production costs that were transferred from Mr. Bernier and Mr. Paradis to other candidates.

“I'm going to suggest to you that Mr. Bernier was less than $2,590 from his spending limit and that he couldn't afford to put the additional amount into his return,” Ms. McIsaac said to Ms. O'Grady.

Ms. O'Grady responded, “Who knows what else would have been going on at the time? I can't comment on how Mr. Bernier ran his campaign.”

In the case of Mr. Paradis, Ms. O'Grady was forced to concede that the candidate had originally been invoiced $29,766 and subsequently received a “credit note” of $10,000 that was 'reallocated' to another candidate, Marc Nadeau.

“Now, again, the reason for this was that Mr. Paradis had reached his limit with respect to spending as well, is that correct?” Ms. McIsaac asked. “He had to allocate some of his money to Mr. Nadeau, did he not, because he was close to his limit?”

“I would not know that,” replied Ms. O'Grady, who replaced former Tory chief financial agent Susan Kehoe several months after the election.

Ms. McIsaac also questioned Ms. O'Grady over the fact that Mr. Bernier paid no production costs for his share of the advertising. Mr. Paradis paid only $233.93 for his share, even though Ms. McIsaac said other candidates paid $4,500 each for production costs.

Robert Gibbs said...

Premier Revives Transfer Fight

McGuinty asks Ontarians to stand up to Ottawa in battle over $20 billion sent to other provinces

Jul 23, 2008 04:30 AM

Rob Ferguson
Queen's Park Bureau

LONDON, ONT.–Ontario needs to be more like other provinces that "defend their interests so quickly it would make your head spin" to win its long-standing $20 billion funding feud with the federal government, Premier Dalton McGuinty says.

But there will be no stunts like lowering the Canadian flag, as Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams did to back demands for a better deal, McGuinty said.

Dusting off his crusade to get Ottawa to take less than the current $20 billion a year from Ontario's struggling economy to help other provinces, the premier urged Ontario residents to get more vocal in backing him in the battle with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"We have been somewhat reluctant to stand up for ourselves," McGuinty said after a luncheon speech to 350 people at the London Chamber of Commerce, in what amounted to a plea for help from citizens. "It's one thing for me to take it to Parliament Hill and make the case as one Ontarian. It's another thing for 13 million Ontarians to make the case together."

McGuinty said it's in their best interests to do so given high oil prices and rising unemployment in a manufacturing sector hit hard by rising costs of energy, the high dollar and a U.S. economic slowdown.

"Right now, despite the energy boom in other parts of the country, the federal government today takes more out of Ontario for redistribution to other provinces than ever before in Canadian history," he said, noting the $20 billion accounts for 3 per cent of Ontario's economic output.

"The system is so badly broken that every time the price of oil goes up – which means Ontarians pay more at the pumps – we have to pay more to the federal government for distribution to the rest of the country."

Keeping more of the money would mean Ontario could provide more support for laid-off workers and cut taxes, said McGuinty, who cited a recent report that said Ontario could be a "have-not" province in need of equalization payments by 2010 if current trends continue.

The president of the Ontario chamber of Commerce supported McGuinty's approach of fighting for a "fair deal" from Ottawa in a businesslike manner and not resorting to publicity stunts.

"Those antics may grab headlines but ultimately we want to be able to make some change and we want to be able to make sure that Ontario gets its fair share," said Len Crispino, who was at the speech.

"We're funding other parts of Canada to a far greater degree. ... I think he's on the right track."