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Mayes makes ‘media monitoring’ list

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes is among those MPs who have captured the attention of the prime minister.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes is among those MPs who have captured the attention of the prime minister.

What that will mean for him remains to be seen, but there’s one certainty – it has come at a cost to taxpayers.

Federal government expenditures on media monitoring between April 1, 2011 and March 20, 2013 show that Mayes is one of 65 backbench MPs who the government has been watching. Mayes (misspelled as Colin ‘Mays’) is listed as one of more than 400 search terms the Privy Council Office contracted Cision Canada Inc. to monitor.

Cision Canada’s website describes the company this way:

“Marketing and PR professionals use our products to help manage all aspects of their brands — from identifying key media and influencers to connecting with audiences; monitoring traditional and social media; and analyzing outcomes.”

The Privy Council office spent $2.4 million on the media monitoring, which included keeping an eye on the 65 MPs. Government-wide, more than $23 million was spent monitoring media over the same period.

The monitoring was news to Mayes, who learned about it late last week.

He told the Observer he is aware the Prime Minister’s Office does some monitoring because there have been a few instances in the past seven years he has been contacted regarding different articles in the newspaper.

“Not many but a couple where they said, ‘do you really want to say this?’ and we talked about it,” explains Mayes. However, he wasn’t aware his name is one of 65 backbench MPs on a list of ‘search’ terms.

“It just came up before I left (Ottawa), and so actually I haven’t had a chance to ask some specifics on it, why they picked the 65,” he said Monday. “It’s hard to say. The prime minister might have said, he just wants to see 65 people and how they’ve dealt with the media because he’s looking to put them in a higher position – and just wants to know how they handle media… I don’t know.”

Mayes says he will be asking for the reasons when he returns to Ottawa. In the meantime, he’s not bothered by being watched.

“The public is always monitoring me. There are people out there who maybe don’t agree or who are critical, sometimes looking for me at my weakest point. It doesn’t bother me at all. If you don’t like conflict and don’t want to live in a glass room, then don’t run for politics.”

He said most communications are open to monitoring.

“In this world of modern communications, tweeter and Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of it, basically everything you put down on a computer is open. I’ve found the best way, if I’ve got something really private that I don’t want to be repeated, I just phone directly to the person… Anything I put on-line I expect it to be public at any time.”

Among those people being monitored by the Conservative government is Liberal MP Justin Trudeau. Mayes isn’t sure how he feels about being in his company.

“I don’t know if that is a compliment or not. That’s yet to be told,” he laughed.

Federal Liberal MP John McCallum, who requested the media monitoring contracts and their search terms from the feds, is not impressed.

“I think it’s a preposterous waste of money,” he said, adding that it demonstrates a certain contempt on the part of the government for its own members.

He noted Google searches are free.

“Why you have to spend all this money is quite beyond me.”


Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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