Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let's see the focus group results we paid for

So CP has a story about how Stephen Harper spent a wack of taxpayer cash on a pre-election cross-country tour:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent nearly $20,000 on hotels and hospitality during 23 trips across Canada in the lead-up to last year's election, his expense accounts show.

Harper spent $16,440 on hotels and another $3,247 on hospitality, while his staff spent nearly $5,000 on ``refreshments and snacks,'' during the cross-country blitz.

The final trip ended Aug. 28 in Dawson City, Yukon, where Harper announced a new Arctic sovereignty policy a week before calling the October election.

More than $200,000 for advance-planning trips by aides is not included in the final costs of the pre-election travels.

According to the rules of blogging and political hackdom, I’m required to decry this shameful waste of taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes, yada yada. A Conservative hack is then required to respond the Liberals did it too and Paul Martin totally spent more. Then I’m required to respond Harper campaigned explicitly against doing this kind of thing, whereas we’ve never pretended to be angels. To which Conservative hack is required to reply SPONSORSHIP!!, and toss in a mention of the HRDC boondoggle.

That required business out of the way, here’s what I’d really like to focus on:
Brooke Pigott, described in the expense reports as Harper's manager of ``market research,'' took four trips to attend focus groups from St. John's to Vancouver, the final one in Toronto on Aug. 26 to 28, shortly before the election call.

A little goggling shows that Ms. Pigott works in the strategic planning office of the PMO, and therefore is paid by the taxpayers. (She also seems to have a Facebook profile, which I thought was verboten for Con staffers) So, as a taxpayer who pays her salary, and the expenses for her cross-country, pre-election focus grouping, I believe I’m entitled to see the results of that focus grouping.

I seem to recall something about the government being required to release all publicly-funded public opinion polling. Would this not apply to focus-grouping as well? And besides, since I’m sure this was all totally above-board and not at all a case of gathering pre-election political information with taxpayer dollars, the government should have nothing to hide and should have no problem with releasing the results of Ms. Pigott’s work.


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Pearce said...

I love your pre-empted political hackery exchange. That being said, I agree, it is quite shady that this "focus grouping" was going on and the results not released. Methinks it was the CPC dipping their toe in the pool to test the electoral waters.

deBeauxOs said...

Don't forget the cost of providing security for Harper and his entourage, to protect him from "threats" during his pre-election junket. That could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid by taxpayers.