Honesty: The Best Policy

With the federal government on hiatus for the last eight weeks, its communication output has been a little thin. As a result, I’ve had to make do with communication from political parties. Yikes.

It’s just possible you know the sort of thing I mean:

  • Smugly delivered misleadingly simplistic talking points in non-debates
  • Pompously delivered recycled speeches to partisan audiences
  • Smugly and pompously delivered spending threats (or was that spending promises?)

At least I don’t have to feel alone. Indeed, sometimes I think that all of Creation shares my feelings.

Collage of American oystercatcher and border collie, both with puzzled expressions.

Bewildered; baleful.


Collage of starling on saguaro cactus; and 2 great-tailed grackles

Beyond bewildered/baleful; into outright irritated.

Anyway, I am so glad that none of these people will actually be elected. That is an option, isn’t it? “None of the above, and I mean it.”

But I digress.

If there is aught in my tone that suggests I’ve been missing communication from government, well, it is not so. Nay, my provincial government has selflessly thrown itself into the breach to fill the gap left by the feds. For several weeks, TV ads have been happily informing me about the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. (Not that I needed the heads-up: I already knew about it from the often withering fire it’s been taking, even from nominal friends.) Anyway, as these high-production-value ads wrap up, the inspirational music builds, and this tagline appears on the screen:

Paid for by the Government of Ontario.

I get a little sniffly every time. What great guys they are.

But I do have one tiny request: that henceforth, all government communication with the public — flyers; billboards; print, TV, and online advertising; websites; even t-shirts, damn it, if someone tries that — must include a tagline that is, you know, actually true.

I’ve modelled my program on the regulations for tobacco product ads: various icky, not to say disturbing, warnings and images speaking of harm to unborn babies, harm to baby-making capacity, and truly disgusting mouth cancers. Governments need a similar range of full-disclosure options to address different situations and objectives: I mean, I’m not unreasonable.

Do they just want to cut to the chase? I have a plain-language version that should be clear to everyone who can read.

Paid for by the taxpayers of <insert jurisdiction here>.

Do they want to make the case for how they’re spending taxpayer money? I have a message that lets them choose their positioning.

The government thought using taxpayer money for this ad was more important than . . . <pick one>
. . . reducing the accumulated debt and its associated interest charges.
. . . providing some useful service.
. . . cutting taxes.

Or — unlikely as it seems — do they want to be frank? I have a disarmingly honest option for that.

Developed with taxpayer money to persuade you to vote for
<insert party in power here> next time.

As for the much-prophesied impending flurry of TV ads from all the political parties — especially, apparently, the Conservatives — well, at least they’re spending their own money. Oh, but wait, there is that little issue of the tax credit for political donations, so maybe we need a full-disclosure tagline for them too.

This ad paid for by actual supporters of <insert political party here>
and by their unwitting neighbours.



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6 Responses to Honesty: The Best Policy

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Or, instead of a tag line, how about a warning, akin to those that appear periodically in TV programs, “This program may contain scenes…. Viewer discretion is advised….”
    Perhaps ads should be prefaced with something like, “This ad may contain assertions that cannot be validated/promises that will not be kept/criticisms that are unfounded/ideologies that have been carefully submerged/and occasional downright lies. Viewer discretion…. etc.”
    American medication ads must contain a long list of conditions for which the medication is not recommended, and may even be dangerous. Imagine if all ads had to be that honest!

    • Excellent alternatives, all, Jim. If only.
      In the U.S., political vows — by Trump and his cohorts — should come with a harsher warning. “Belief in anything said here may cause anal leakage.”

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – Ouch. I wonder whether Trump is amusing himself, waiting to throw his support behind someone who emerges as the front runner, meanwhile directing the content of the debate. Only problem is, how do you throw your support behind someone who’s polling lower?

        • He’ll bow out if his numbers drop below somebody else’s. But first he would deny to high heaven they were higher.

          I believe his is a revenue campaign, out to destroy the GOP leadership/candidates who in 2012 thought he was a joke candidate… and to restore his pride after the drubbing he took at the President’s White House Correspondence “Roast” Dinner 3-4 years ago. Trump chuckled but his wife du jour looked terrified, sneaking glances at him. As narcissists, he and Sarah Palin can never forget a slight.

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Barbara – Hah! Only Trump could hold both those ideas in his head at the same time: “I’m still ahead and I’m bowing out to support the leader.” Someone else told me they figured he was actually a Hillary supporter and trying to disrupt the Republicans. No theory is more outlandish than the man.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Yes, a viewer discretion warning would also work. By the time we’re done, political parties and governments won’t advertise. Hey!

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