Canada to revise pr procurement? Professional associations are beginning to realize that pr is not only private sector…good news

An interesting effort by the Canadian Public Relations Association has just begun. In an early post of this blog I wrote of another action undertaken by the Italian PR Association (FERPI) to ensure that increasing public spending on public relations be carefully monitored. In yet another we commented the media take up and the CIPR’s quick response to a report which indicated a similar increase of spent in the UK….it seems as if professional associations are beginning to realize that the public relations profession is not, as they once seemed to think, only a matter concerning the private sector and agencies/consultants…read the following message I have just received from Judy Gombita…

Ottawa considers changes to PR procurement

Canada’s public relations industry is demanding the federal government revise its procurement system for public relations services and establish something similar to the system now in place for the advertising industry in the post-Gomery era.

The Canadian Public Relations Society, which has established a task force on government relations, briefed Public Works and Government Services Minister Michael Fortier on the issue in the spring, says task force chair Luc Beauregard, who is also CEO and chair of Montreal-based National Public Relations. The PR industry is seeking a transparent and fair process in the selection of PR firms and an end to a bidding system in which “you’ve got to reinvent the wheel every time there’s an RFP.”

Currently, the federal government has no central authority over the awarding or policing of PR contracts, with Public Works having no say over how government agencies and Crown corporations handle their PR procurement.

“I must say the industry is very suspect and very critical about the fairness of the awarding of contracts in the public relations industry,” Beauregard told Marketing. For example, National–which for years has been Canada’s largest PR firm–has received little PR work in its 30 years in business and Beauregard says it has not been unusual for contracts to go to fronts for governing parties.

“We’ve been asked to bid on contracts where the number of bidders included one guy on the third floor of a flat in St. Léonard (a suburb of Montreal). You’ve got the legitimate firms and all of a sudden Mr. X. At the end of the process, surprise, surprise, this Mr. X you’ve never heard of wins the business. It’s not been uncommon.”

When the Progressive Conservatives were in power in the 1980s, National was told it couldn’t get any government work because it was a Liberal firm, whereas when the Liberals were in power it was told it was a Conservative firm.

Beauregard says Fortier “has been responsive to what we say and we hope that he will come forward for us because (changes are) way overdue.”

As part of the Federal Accountability Act, Fortier said in May that PR would be separated from advertising RFPs–seen as a positive sign by Beauregard–and that a procurement auditor would be hired to scrutinize how advertising contracts are decided by government departments and Crown corporations. “We’re further ahead on this than we’ve ever been before,” says Beauregard.

The Public Works department confirmed it has been holding consultations with a number of industry associations and suppliers before proceeding further with procurement reform.

–Danny Kucharsky

as appeared today (October 17) in

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One Reply to “Canada to revise pr procurement? Professional associations are beginning to realize that pr is not only private sector…good news”

  1. Luc Beauregard is one of the most ethical PR people in the world, plus he uses the words “Public Relations: in the name of his company.

    But, to cut to the chase, he runs an ethical company in the province of Quebec in the country of Canada, and it’s no wonder he did not get business. Those who have hours to kill can investigate the Gomery Inquiry, a big-deal investigation by the government of Canada about corruption in the Canadian government, especially as it relates to advertising, PR, and related communications. People went to jail because of kickbacks and favortism in awarding communications contracts to Quebec companies.

    It’s been, to the best of my knowledge and based on three decades in the Canadian PR business, very difficult for a Quebec-based business to get honest work from the federal goivernment if Quebec-based politicians are involved, and you are not clearly seen as a supporter of them.

    Is it any easier if you are a Canadian PR firm anywhere outside of Quebec? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is at least less obviously rigged.

    And, of course, we get into the semantics of where PR starts and stops, compared to advertising compared to advocacy compared to public information, and so on.

    I’m not sure of the rules today, federally and in each of the 10 provinces, but it used to be that advertising agencies and PR firms had to be Canadian-owned. And all the big ones, except for Luc’s, are owned in England or France or the USA, etc. Rules are now, I believe, less restrictive since the pool of potential bidders got bought up by foreigners.

    I’ve done lots of work for the government of Ontario and a bit for the federal government, while I was at big agencies. It was years ago, and back then I was not involved in getting the business – no dinners with cabinet ministers for me — but I did run the accounts day to day, and there was never any political interference in what I did, except directly from cabinet ministers for whom I wrote speeches.

    And they presented my speeches, and never asked about my political leanings.

    My understanding is that today the situation is very different, with unelected “officials” in the offices of premiers and the prime minister telling PR people, on government staff or outsiders, and even cabinet ministers themselves, what to say, to whom, and how.

    And neither agency asked about my politics when it hired me.

    I also think there’s an error in transcription or a mispeak in this sentence, ““I must say the industry is very suspect and very critical about the fairness …”

    I think Luc meant “suspicious” rather than “suspect.”

    Canadian PR agencies, lobbiests, public afgfairs agencies, etc. play both sides of the street, staffing themselves with overt supporters of all the main political parties. It’s not that hard to find a well known Liberal supporter and a well known Conservative supporter in the same agency.


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