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Harper government monitors media for Council of Canadians comments on trade

The Ottawa Citizen reports, “The Conservative government is being accused of using some of its multi-million-dollar media monitoring contracts for political purposes to keep an eye on opponents and potential scandals that could derail the party’s electoral hopes.”

The news report notes, “The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is monitoring media for any mention of the Council of Canadians, a left-leaning group that has opposed the government’s trade agenda.”

“The government has spent more than $20 million on media monitoring contracts since December 2012, despite maintaining more than 3,300 communications staff across government. Included within the government’s media monitoring contracts are more than 1,100 pages of search terms (half English, half French) that show the government keeping an eye on what reporters, critics and its own spokespersons are saying. The media monitoring search terms are for contracts entered into, or in force, on or since March 21, 2013 to June 2014.”

“Opposition parties suggest such search terms mean the government is spending the money for political gain. …And don’t ask the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) about its media monitoring activities. The agency has refused to release details of any contracts, ostensibly for security reasons. …[But] Raymond Rivet, director of corporate and media affairs for the Privy Council Office, said in an email…“News monitoring is conducted to track key public policy issues that impact the government of Canada agenda and to assess the effectiveness of government of Canada communications’.”

This new revelation comes on top of various other news reports about surveillance of activist groups under the Harper government including, The NEB coordinated intelligence gathering on advocacy groups, including us, Government Operations Centre to monitor all protestsCouncil condemns surveillance of First NationsRCMP reportedly monitoring anti-fracking activistsRCMP to lead new security unit to ‘protect’ Alberta’s energy industry and The RCMP-led spying on anti-G20 activists.