Harper government’s brand management cheapens us

Opinions_government brand

The world knows what Canada stands for

By Patrick Vaillancourt, Senior Columnist

I’m a big proponent of solid brand management. As a writer, managing the very brand of writing I bring to a publication, employers, and clients is of vital importance. While such an exercise is worthy for a company or a freelancer, I’m not convinced that the same could be applied for national governments.

That is what the Harper government seems to be trying to do, and in some cases, it has made Canada a laughingstock. In late October, the Economist caught us “boasting”—in space of all places.

Images of the Canadarm2, the robotic limb of the International Space Station, displayed a large logo of Canada. The logo was Photoshopped. The images, however, appeared on federal government websites until they were taken down. The Canadian Space Agency claims that the doctored images were for “internal purposes” and that their widespread use on government websites and caching on Google images was “a mistake.”

The journalist who discovered the doctored images, Kenneth Cukier, wrote that the “tactic of fairly ham-fisted airbrushing used here seems more reminiscent of North Korean propaganda posters than of Western democracies’ typical PR efforts.”

As someone who has also spent time on the Korean peninsula, I say that Cukier’s criticism is a very big blow to Canada. Yet, I agree with the sentiment.

This is not the first instance of the Harper government’s attempts at the brand management of this country. Two instances, which have also resulted in controversy, occurred in 2006 (after Harper formed his first minority government), which replaced “Government of Canada” on official stationery with “Canada’s New Government.” Another rebranding of government stationery took place between 2010 until the 2011 election, which branded our national government as “The Harper Government.”

I, like most Canadians, would simply like to call it “Government of Canada.” Should they wish to be a little more formal, I’ll accept “Her Majesty’s Canadian Government” as a substitute.

I understand the economic need to get Canada’s name out there, but while the government seems to think that we are still a junior player in a global economy, I beg to differ. Canada is a world-class society, leading the world in a variety of different metrics. Canada remains a beacon of freedom for those who wish to live here. Canadians are the envy of citizens from all around the globe and Canadian values have been made clear to everyone through former diplomatic, military, and business endeavours.

There’s no need to boast, nor is there a need for us to rebrand ourselves. Doing so opens us up to the kinds of criticisms offered by Cukier and those who are of like mind.