NP View: Why is Ottawa leaking questions from the press to a private firm?


Why is the Canadian government sharing media requests with private industry?

As reported in the National Post on Friday, a Postmedia reporter recently sent information requests to the ministries of National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada. The journalist had received a tip about alleged welding problems aboard HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first of the Royal Canadian Navy’s new Arctic patrol warships. The ship was launched last year and is undergoing fitting-out now. The Postmedia journalist sought information about the alleged welding problems.

This is an entirely routine step in the media. Journalists hear things, which are often unconfirmed, and seek additional information. Sometimes stories result, but often, the provided answers are sufficient and the journalist moves on.

That did not happen here.

After sending the query to both government departments on March 6, the journalist received several prompt replies — within two hours, in fact. But not from federal officials. Instead, the replies came from Irving Shipbuilding, which built the DeWolf. The first was an offer of information, the second was a threat to sue Postmedia if “anything false about (Irving’s) reputation is published.” Irving knew the journalist’s identity and the topic of his queries.

Irving has every right to reach out to journalists, and to go to court if it feels it has been wronged. That is not in dispute. But why are federal ministries farming out media requests to the private sector? Why are they revealing to companies the identities of journalists pursuing stories about those companies?

The Royal Canadian Navy’s first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, the future HMCS Harry DeWolf, is seen being assembled at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard in a file photo from Dec. 8, 2017.

To be clear, if there are problems with welding aboard the DeWolf-class ships, that’s entirely within the public interest, especially considering that Irving is soon to begin construction of a much larger, much more expensive fleet of warships for the Navy. (Irving, for its part, denies any serious issues with the DeWolf, and says that though minor welding deficiencies were found, they will be easily rectified. Some degree of fine-tuning is not unusual when ships are launched.)

But that’s a secondary issue here. The key issue is the apparent cozy relationship between our federal ministries and a private-sector entity.

The journalist’s request was to the Canadian government. The responsibility for replying lay with the Canadian government. This government, in particular, has touted …read more

Source:: Nationalpost


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