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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Weather reports hijacked for crypto-partisan ads

Posted: 04/25/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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In exchange for having to endure this country's capricious climate, Canadians should be allowed to consume our mandatory weather forecasts in peace -- without, for instance, being bombarded by political messaging. That's just good public policy.

So how to explain the so-called "fresh new look" of weather.gc.ca, the federal government's hugely popular forecast website? The once-prominent Environment Canada logo has been reduced nearly beyond recognition and shunted off to a remote location just north of Iqaluit on an interactive map. In the extra space: three links to advertisements touting the government's economic performance.

It's an obvious irony. The Harper government has spent more than $100 million in the past three years trumpeting its frugality. Advertising for the Conservatives' Economic Action Plan has become an ubiquitous part of Canadian life, present on street corners, along highways and on airwaves across the country -- perhaps the largest public presence of a government that prefers to be thought of as minimalist. And now that we can't even determine appropriate outerwear without being confronted by the crypto-partisan ads, it's official: There's no getting away from them.

Advertising is a legitimate way for a government to communicate directly with citizens, but a $100-million campaign over three years is unprecedented and particularly distressing during a time of austerity.

It's a question of priorities.

An Environment Canada logo shrunken and marginalized, replaced by claims of economic success that every day seem more dubious. If we read it as a metaphor, the forecast is grim.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2013 A14

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