I just got back from an overnight canoeing trip on the Miramichi with a couple of ED buddies. By my count, we spent about 13 hours straight talking about economic development. I felt like Russian dissidents circa the 1970s plotting the downfall of communism (although our issues in NB are not nearly as grandiose).
But I am not going to talk about that discussion. I want to talk this evening about communications in government. I know it’s an old theme on this blog but I want to revisit it in light of several conversations I have had lately.
First, I think we need to completely rethink how government ‘communicates’ with its public. Right now the only communications is pried out of government officials by the media or served up via highly sanitized and vetted press communiques. In fact, sometimes I think the role of the communications people in government is to restrict the information that the public sees on its activities.
And that is crazy. The government of NB spends $6 billion tax dollars each year and you would be hard pressed to find a handful of people that actually know what the government does.
I would flip it on its ear. I would encourage the Premier to write a blog – a heartfelt communication with the public. Not the crap we hear now. An honest personal assessment from the guy about the challenges and struggles of trying to change things in this province. I would have BNB employees writing “dispatches from the road” where they tell the public about recent trips to Prague and Dallas and some of the exciting things they are working on. Not private information or confidential company names but the things they are doing on a daily basis to try and make things better for all New Brunswickers.
And I would apply that to every department and agency of government. I would start an ongoing and personal dialogue with the people.
Now some are going to say that it would be a waste of time and money. That only a few people would ever read the stuff and it would take valuable time away from ‘real’ work. I say that is bullcrap. Ask the average New Brunswicker. They will tell you that the government almost nothing and has no real impact on their daily lives. Why? Because they haven’t a clue what is being done.
And even if only a few folks tune in. So what? I have always thought that we need a ground swell of support from the people for a real economic development agenda. One that causes pain in certain areas. One that will require risk and one that will require far more focus from across government and its agencies. That is why you need this interactivity.
Cripes. Between Communications New Brunswick and the dozens if not a hundred or more communications types in each and every department of government. What is the point of their millions of dollars spent?