Why you don't hear much from the provincial government at election time - InfoNews

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Why you don't hear much from the provincial government at election time

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May 23, 2017 - 1:07 PM

Journalists are known to complain that it’s difficult getting information from the government at the best of times, but during an election, it’s even tougher.

Over the past couple of weeks, reporters at iNFOnews.ca have been making our usual inquiries with provincial government contacts and have been told on several occasions that staff cannot do media interviews until the election has officially wrapped up. Even though the election was held on May 9, official results won't be in until absentee ballots are counted May 24.

On Friday, May 12, our office contacted the Ministry of Transportation to ask about a proposal for an intersection upgrade at Highway 97 and Highway 3A, south of Penticton. No comment was provided and the reason given was the election.

On Tuesday, May 16, a different inquiry was sent to the Ministry of Transportation about how rising lake levels might impact the bridge in Kelowna. Again, our staff was told that no comment could be provided due to the election, although the Ministry did eventually send a brief statement.

On Wednesday, May 17, a reporter contacted a conservation officer to ask about a potentially invasive species washing up in a Vernon park. The officer said he couldn’t comment until the election was over. In this case, the Ministry of Environment did send a written statement two days later, after our deadline had passed.

According to Andrew Watson with Elections B.C., there is nothing under the elections act that prevents government employees from speaking to the media during the election. There are rules around election advertising, but nothing that would restrict the flow of general information, he said.

Any directives on the matter would come down to internal government policy.

We asked the Province about that policy and got a written response from Matt Gordon, Government Communications and Public Engagement, assistant Deputy Minister. He says that during the interregnum period (the time when government is suspended) “it is the duty of the public service, including Government Communications and Public Engagement, to remain impartial during this time both in action and perception.”

“Government activity is typically very limited during this time as new policy and legislative work awaits the new executive council. However, on issues such as public and environmental health and emergency management, the public can expect the government’s full attention to such matters," Gordon says.

During elections, he says government staff do not provide analysis or comment on campaign promises of any political party, or “any general comments that they may make about government programs, policies and services.”

He says the communications practices are the same this year as they have always been.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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