NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Communications Nova Scotia
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
Public Accounts Committee
Hon. Keith Colwell, Chairman
Mr. Howard Epstein, Vice-Chairman
Mr. Clarrie MacKinnon
Mr. Gary Ramey
Mr. Mat Whynott
Mr. Brian Skabar
Hon. Manning MacDonald
Mr. Chuck Porter
Mr. Allan MacMaster
[Ms. Becky Kent replaced Mr. Clarrie MacKinnon]
[Mr. Andrew Younger replaced Hon. Manning MacDonald]
[Mr. Alfie MacLeod replaced Mr. Allan MacMaster]
Mrs. Darlene Henry
Legislative Committee Clerk
Ms. Evangeline Colman-Sadd
Assistant Auditor General
Ms. Karen Kinley
Legislative Counsel Office
Communications Nova Scotia
Ms. Tracey Taweel, Associate Deputy Minister
Ms. Angela Campbell, Manager, Client Services
Ms. Kathleen Trott, Director of Marketing
Ms. Kathryn March, Financial Advisor
HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 2012
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Hon. Keith Colwell
Mr. Howard Epstein
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'd like to welcome our guests here this morning. We usually start off by introducing MLAs and everybody here.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Welcome again. We start off with a presentation, if you have a presentation, Ms. Taweel.
MS. TRACEY TAWEEL: Thank you. Good morning, and thank you very much for the opportunity to share the scope and impact of Communications Nova Scotia's work. With me this morning I have Angela Campbell, Manager of Client Services; Kathleen Trott, our Managing Director of Marketing; and Kathryn March, Coordinator of Financial Planning and Analysis.
My opening comments this morning will focus on what we do, how we do it, and the results we are delivering for Nova Scotians. CNS has a legislated responsibility to help Nova Scotians understand what their government is doing and why. CNS has delivered on this responsibility as a full-service, non-partisan agency since 1996. Our services run the full gamut, from communications planning to creative services, from photography to public safety, from media relations to marketing, from Web sites to Web casts.
The Queens Printer alone manages about 10,000 jobs per year, from the Hansard that gets delivered to this House to T4 slips that go into the homes of employees across the province. While our services have evolved certainly in the almost two decades since our inception, our commitment to high quality, consistent and clear communications in support of government's agenda has never wavered. Our work is perhaps more critical now than at any time since our inception. Our central purpose - to help Nova Scotians understand what their government is doing and why - has not changed, but the way we deliver on that responsibility has.
We live in a world with tremendous uncertainty, a real-time world where people expect reliable, credible information quickly and at all hours. Think back to the Porters Lake fire, H1N1 or the flooding and isolation of people in Meat Cove. Our staff is on the scene and behind the scenes, ensuring Nova Scotians have what they need, when and where they need it.
We are also well past the time when Nova Scotians simply want to hear the news. They now want meaningful, accessible information so they can help shape it. For CNS this means continually evolving, reaching more Nova Scotians in more effective ways, and inviting them into the conversation about their priorities and vision for our province. To use one practical example, 16 years ago most people learned about the news of the day over their morning newspaper, but people don't need to wait for the next newscast or the paper delivery any more - they can learn about and react to the news from their laptop or smart phone, wherever and whenever they choose.
CNS is responding with more Web-based information, more social media releases, more followers on Facebook, and more tweets on Twitter. The value of inviting Nova Scotians into the conversation before decisions are made, instead of after the fact, cannot be disputed and that is a high priority for government. For CNS this means making information that goes deeper than top-line messages accessible to more Nova Scotians - discussion papers, action plans, facts and figures on the priorities we know matter, like jobs, health care, education, and programs that can help families.
The work, structure, mission and mandate of CNS has been emulated in many provinces across the country, because we do consistently demonstrate “best in class” when it comes to public sector communications, which brings me to more results about the value we are delivering to Nova Scotians.
Please let me speak about three recent public education campaigns. First example: Better Care Sooner, a multimedia campaign including community based communications, news releases and media events, Web and social media, direct mail and advertising. Dr. John Ross spoke clearly to the need to improve everyone’s knowledge of health care services so people can get the care they need more quickly. The campaign prompted more Nova Scotians to get a flu shot, and calls to the 811 nurse line have increased by almost 180 per cent since last year.
A second example would be jobsHere. We heard from the Economic Advisory Council and chambers of commerce about the need to increase awareness about programs that bring dollars to their businesses and jobs to Nova Scotians. Since March, 6,000 people have visited the jobsHere Web site. There is simply no point in funding a program if those who benefit don’t know about it - that is why we try to take a multimedia approach, getting the right message in the right way to those who need or want to know. That brings me to my last example - promoting our home Heating Assistance Rebate, or HARP. In the weeks following that campaign, requests for applications more than doubled.
We are also delivering services at less cost based on sound fiscal management, fair procurement, and research and evaluation on what works. Over the past three years we have cut operating costs by about $1.8 million; we have reduced staff by 15 in the last year; since 2007 we have cut spending on external communications by 27 per cent; and spending on promotional products alone has dropped by 50 per cent.
I would like to close by thanking the professionals at CNS who are passionate about their work, the province, and the Nova Scotians they serve - professionals who follow a code of ethics and code of conduct, and engage people with honesty, integrity and respect.
With those comments, thank you for your attention and I welcome your questions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We’ll start the questioning with Mr. Younger. You have 20 minutes.
MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Thank you for your presentation. Let me just start by asking for a clarification on something that was just in your remarks. You said that you had reduced staff by 15 last year, but the budget documents submitted by the minister show that you actually had 13 more staff than what you were budgeted for last year - can you explain that discrepancy?
MS. TAWEEL: At Communications Nova Scotia we have a mixture of full time permanent employees and also term employees. Those term positions have an end date of March 31st, at the end of a fiscal year. Over the course of the last fiscal year we reduced 15 term positions. Throughout the course of the year there are a number of ins and outs in terms of positions with maternity leaves, vacancy management, et cetera - some retirements. Over the course of the year, we did reduce our numbers by 15, and you will note that this year’s estimate shows us opening the year with 107 FTEs.
MR. YOUNGER: Maybe I’m missing something here. You started last year saying there would be 107 full-time equivalents - I guess really is what it is - and by the end of the year, from March 31st it was 120. That’s not a reduction of 15 FTEs for the last fiscal year and your remarks just said you reduced the last fiscal year by 15. That’s an increase of 13 FTEs.
MS. TAWEEL: If you refer back to the previous fiscal year, we closed the year with 132 FTEs, so in fact there was a reduction of 15 FTEs if you compare year over year.
MR. YOUNGER: You’re talking over the previous year, not within that existing year.
MS. TAWEEL: Yes.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, that makes more sense. I want to find out a couple of things. First of all, in terms of how messaging is determined - you mentioned HARP ads, so let’s start with that one - when did that start?
MS. TAWEEL: When did the HARP ads commence?
MR. YOUNGER: Yes.
MS. TAWEEL: We commenced the HARP public awareness campaign in November of last year.
MR. YOUNGER: It strikes me that there’s a difference. If the government is going to advertise something like HARP and say there is a heating rebate and here’s how you get it - and if I remember that one, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong - I think there was a phone number and a Web site in at least some of that advertising if you wanted to get the rebate, so that makes some sense, and telling people that they can call 811, that also makes some sense to me. However there is an enormous amount of government advertising lately, and maybe over the past five or six months there is more of a - it really doesn’t have any call to action, in advertising lingo, other than the generic Government of Nova Scotia Web site, gov.ns.ca - it’s not specific to a program. I would give the two examples that immediately come to mind and they are in significantly heavier rotation than the HARP ads or the 811 ads were.
I can tell you even now, you watch Global on Monday nights, every single commercial break on Monday night had that Kids and Learning First one - the Web site on the bottom is gov.ns.ca. There’s no information about a program that people can apply for - really, it’s almost like a competing ad with the one that runs not quite as frequently because they don’t have as much money, but it’s almost always back-to-back from the Teachers Union. So I’m wondering how you determine, or what policies might be in place to determine what is partisan advertising or what is - maybe not even partisan but political-type advertising and what is actual to advertise a program such as 811 or HARP, because that makes perfect sense to me.
MS. TAWEEL: Perhaps I’ll just take a step back for a moment. From our perspective, good communications marketing and public awareness really is the combination of consistent, clear messaging delivered through multiple channels. The ads that you cite, that’s simply one channel where we’re delivering a message about Kids and Learning First and changes that are being made within the education system, directing people to the main government Web site where they can jump off and pursue deeper information located on the Department of Education Web site.
Our experience would suggest that scatter-gun type approaches don’t tend to work - we need to be very consistent in delivering the same messages over and over through a variety of different channels. I would suggest that we are advertising and communicating about programs, services or issues that are important to Nova Scotians. Any marketing, advertising or communications that is undertaken by Communications Nova Scotia is reflective of the priorities of government. I would suggest that the Kids and Learning First spots that you reference, as well as any of the campaigns we’ve run around Better Care Sooner of jobsHere, are in support of government’s priorities and the mandate that all departments and agencies within government are seeking to deliver.
MR. YOUNGER: But there’s a very big difference between them. It almost goes against what you just said. You said it’s important that there is a similar, if you want to call it, action and that’s why you put the main site. But the immunization ad that’s running at the moment, the Web site address and the contact and the information is not the government’s main site, if I remember it is immunize.gov.ns.ca. It’s a sub-domain. It isn’t for the Kids and Learning First; it isn’t education.gov.ns.ca. The jobsHere one wasn’t jobs.gov.ns.ca. The HARP one was - so there is a difference.
In fact, from an advertising point of view, generally speaking advertising in the private sector would use sub-domains like the immunize one, because it would allow them to track how many people actually were coming as a result of that advertisement. By just going to the general main government Web site, you actually can’t track the effectiveness of that particular ad versus any others.
If you’re looking for something consistent, why is it okay - and I’ll just use that one as an example because I see it every time I turn the TV on, it must be costing a fortune for airtime - why is it that ad doesn’t have a sub-domain tag, but the ones that actually are advertising either a program such as 811 or the immunization ones, that makes some sense, or the HARP one all do?
MS. TAWEEL: I think actually what you’ve pointed out is something that we would like to address, which is the fact that ultimately we would like all of our public awareness campaigns to be driving everyone to the main government Web site as the main starting point for all information. Research tells us that the Government of Nova Scotia's Web site is one of the top Web sites visited in this province for information by Nova Scotians. We have right now what I would suggest is a bit of a smorgasbord, if you will, of Web domain addresses.
We have been working over time to try to consolidate those and to have the main government Web site be the main landing place for all information, so the other examples you cite, in terms of the immunization sub-domain or some of the others - my apologies, I can't remember the others you referenced - my preference would be that all traffic is directed to the main government page because it is much easier for any viewer, or anyone who is listening to the radio, to remember Nova Scotia versus a long, complicated URL with a bunch of sub-elements attached to it. So in the case of the Kids and Learning First ad, we were able to create a main landing spot on our corporate site to drive traffic, as a jumping-off point, deeper into the Department of Education Web site. You've actually pointed out something that we would like to address.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, and I think you're addressing it in the wrong way, I think you're addressing it backwards, because most of the advertising research out there would suggest that you want to track the effectiveness of your ads by actually using a sub-domain, so that you can actually see whether people are actually watching the ad, then punching it into their computer and . . .
MS. TAWEEL: We are actually able to track on our main government Web site, so you can see that.
MR. YOUNGER: You can't, though, because you can track how many people click on the Kids and Learning First icon, but you have no idea how many people went there because they saw the ad on TV. You wouldn't know that unless you used the sub-domain.
You just told me that the government Web site is the most visited site in the province for information, and I have no doubt about that, that makes a lot of sense, but you have no idea which of those people just went to that government site and clicked on that and how many people saw the TV ad, because you aren't differentiating between those domain names, so you actually can't track the effectiveness of the spending on TV ads.
MS. TAWEEL: We can track, though, based on when we're in market and the numbers that we see in terms of if there is a spike and an increase in visitations to the Web site.
MR. YOUNGER: But you're in market at the same time that this issue is in the newspapers and everywhere else, so of course people are going on the Web site. See, what you're saying doesn't - you're kind of giving two different stories because a few minutes ago you talked about we do the advertising because it's government policy and they're pushing it, which of course they are - right? It's in Question Period, the government is putting out press releases, the minister is going and making announcements at schools, so people are seeing that and they're going to say, oh, I might like to know what they're talking about - right? So I've heard this coming from my school, and that's one opinion, and I would actually like to have the information from the government and compare the two - right?
So fine, let's take the average Joe on the street who decides to do that. Of course it's in the paper, they're going to go to the government Web site and look for that information, but you're running the ads on TV at the same time - I don't know if there are newspaper ads but let's say for the sake of argument that there's a newspaper ad or an Internet ad, if they all have the same - well the Internet one you could check because obviously that's a click through, but if they're going to the government site, you can't differentiate. If I go there today - so I know that ad is in the field today because I see it on TV constantly - if I go to that Web site today, you have no way of knowing whether I clicked on that icon because I just went to the government Web site like I do every day, or whether it is because I saw that ad - right?
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest to you that you are focused solely on television at this point. For us, as I referenced in my opening remarks, television or advertising is merely one element of an overall campaign and the communications efforts that we undertake that see an issue reported on in the newspaper by virtue of a news conference or an event having taken place, in combination with advertising we're doing on-line or other forms of communication, it's the cumulative impacts that we are also trying to measure.
MR. YOUNGER: I agree the cumulative impact is important, but over the years I've worked with a lot of advertising agencies and there's not one that I've ever worked with that would suggest that you shouldn't know where your visitors are coming from. Let me put it this way, how much have you spent on air time for the Kids and Learning First ad? Just a ballpark, because I know you're still spending it.
MS. TAWEEL: I can give you that amount. Over two campaigns in total we've spent $213,000 in media buy.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, so you have no way of knowing whether that $213,000 - whatever percentage of it is TV or other things - you have no way of knowing whether that has been wisely spent because you can’t tell how many of your visitors are as a result of that ad.
MS. TAWEEL: You are referencing one measure only. There are other measures that we certainly look at.
MR. YOUNGER: I know I am, and I’m not saying the cumulative measure isn’t important, but if you can’t break it down you have no idea whether you should have spent that money in TV or not.
MS. TAWEEL: We evaluate globally and we use our analytics to determine, as I said earlier, if there is a spike in Web site hits. You are correct - it could be the combination of a bunch of different elements coming together that do drive people to the Web site. I would suggest all of that is important and as we evaluate globally, we then make decisions about what makes sense in terms of how we purchase, what we purchase, and how we choose to communicate.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, maybe you can explain why this has changed because when the Nova Scotia tourism ads were running - and I know we’re in the middle of a switch and there is somebody else taking those on - different ads had different people, so one would be “Ask for Alfie” and another one would be “Ask for Keith” or “Ask for Jane”, and the reason they did that was not so you would actually ask for a real person, but they could tell which ad somebody saw based on who people asked for. Not everybody would ask for somebody, but it gave an idea of which ads were more effective than the others.
That was really, really important as part of the government strategy, to know what was working in the field and what wasn’t. And now you’re saying that’s less important; it’s more important for us not to know which stuff is effective, but that our traffic has gone up - why the change?
MS. TAWEEL: TV is a proven mode for communicating with Nova Scotians.
MR. YOUNGER: I’m not sure that it is anymore, because people DVR and fast-forward commercials.
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest to you that we get the biggest bang for our buck when we utilize television because of its reach and frequency and the very low rates we are able to procure through television here in Nova Scotia.
I’m not quite sure how else to respond to your question.
MR. YOUNGER: That would be a long debate, and I realize it is probably more effective than newspapers at the moment based on how newspaper readership has gone.
It’s interesting when you talk to the private advertising companies in the field, they have a very different story and are moving away from television because of the DVR problem and they’re recommending largely to their clients, when you talk to them, that unless you’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any - I don’t want you to take that the wrong way, but I think you should be measuring it.
I’m only going to have another three or four minutes, so the other question I asked earlier that we didn’t really get to: Is there a written policy saying where the line is between political/partisan - that sort of advertising - versus advertising a program and the guidelines? I’ll tell you why - because this isn’t going to surprise the government members to hear this said because this has come up a lot from editorials, members of the public, and members of the Opposition - the phrase that’s showing up on a lot of the government advertising is remarkably similar, say for a single word, to the phrase that was on all of the NDP’s literature, still is on their partisan Web site, was on all their election signs, their election literature. I can’t even tell you which is which - one was “Working for Today’s Families” and one was “Making Life Better for Today’s Families” - something like that - but they’re basically the same phrase. Who asked for that phrase to be put there and how did it get approved?
MS. TAWEEL: As I said in my opening remarks, CNS is a non-partisan agency. We’ve existed for 16 years. Our mandate is to explain . . .
MR. YOUNGER: And it was the same phrase until about 2010. For about 20 years the government used the same phrase and now it’s changed, so somebody decided it should be changed and it changed to almost match the NDP election signs.
MS. TAWEEL: As I said earlier, good communication is the result of consistent communications and delivering clear and consistent well-branded messaging to Nova Scotians, so that it cuts through the clutter. You referenced earlier that there’s a lot of information out there. We need communication that is consistent so it’s recognizable as coming from a credible source, which is the Government of Nova Scotia.
As a professional communications agency, we recognize obviously the importance of ensuring that consistent messaging, consistent look and feel in materials that are being put forward to Nova Scotians. I would suggest we’re advertising on issues that are important to Nova Scotians like health, education, the economy, jobs, et cetera. It is normal, every government develops a set of corporate messages that they use when communicating with Nova Scotians.
During an election, all political Parties put forward a platform to the electorate. They put it out there and they say this is what we will do, this is what we represent. Once a Party is elected, that platform becomes the policy mandate for all of government, not just Communications Nova Scotia but every department and agency. That work then becomes the work of all departments and agencies. Nova Scotians expect government to deliver on the mandate that they set forth, and our job is to explain to Nova Scotians how that’s being done.
MR. YOUNGER: But I asked the question - who asked for that? - because the same phrase was used previously, and they weren’t the election phrases for either the Tory or the Liberal Governments in the previous time. If we go back and look at the signs, the signs didn’t really change between the Liberal or Tory Governments before they did change, and maybe there’s a good reason for it.
What I’m asking is who asked or suggested that that phrase should be used, which was very similar - I’m not asking for the rationale - I’m asking who suggested that suddenly, after 20-plus years, the colours and the phrase should all change to suddenly match a Party’s election platform slogan, which hadn’t been done before?
MS. TAWEEL: I think if you look back over the 16 years, at least since our inception, you will see a wide array of change that occurred over that period of time in terms of messaging, in terms of how programs and services . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I’m sorry, Mr. Younger’s time has expired.
Mr. Porter - or Mr. MacLeod. (Interruption)
Mr. MacLeod. You guys changed a couple of times on who was going to speak.
MR. ALFIE MACLEOD: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your presentation this morning.
I was wondering if you could tell me, when you are building a communications plan or doing a project for a department, what’s the process that you follow?
MS. TAWEEL: Certainly. Yes, I’ll walk you through a typical process. So, for example, let’s say the Department of Health and Wellness wants to inform people about flu shots - that’s a recent campaign that you would be familiar with. The program staff in that department work very collaboratively with Communications Nova Scotia staff that we have assigned - embedded, if you will - within the Department of Health and Wellness. They sit down and they talk a little bit about their objectives in terms of, in this instance, increasing uptake of flu shots and ensuring Nova Scotians understand the benefit to themselves and their families to receive a flu shot. So they sit down and talk to their Communications Nova Scotia staff who, in turn, link in with their colleagues - some of whom are with me today - to determine what makes sense in terms of a public awareness campaign.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to pursue a public awareness campaign in terms of a marketing campaign, if you will. Sometimes public relations activities perhaps make more sense - for example, holding an event, or maybe we need to produce a brochure of some sort to leave in doctors’ offices, et cetera. In some instances, though, we do determine, based on research, that it makes sense to pursue a multimedia type of campaign, which was the case with the flu shot awareness.
The marketing information that we develop dovetails with all of the communication materials and the policy and programmatic objectives within the department. So, typically, we work with the program staff to advise them on what makes the most sense in terms of delivering their message to Nova Scotians, and ensuring that we’re doing it in a way that is always mindful of spending taxpayers’ dollars wisely, but that also will ultimately achieve those clear objectives that we have helped them to find in our initial conversations.
MR. MACLEOD: Does the Premier’s Office have the final sign-off on a project like that?
MS. TAWEEL: I’m sure you can appreciate in an entity as large and complex as the government, there are a number of people who are involved in terms of how program services and public awareness campaigns are developed and ultimately make their way to market. In the example that I just provided you in terms of Health and Wellness, the deputy minister and the minister of that department would obviously play a key role in making decisions about what ultimately goes to market; there are a number of other departments that would be consulted as well.
If there’s any overlap with the public awareness campaign that we are developing and the mandate of other departments, we have an approval process that's in place - it has existed for years. It's a very typical approval process, through which anything like a public awareness campaign would flow, so that people who need to be informed are informed - included in that group would be the Premier's Office.
MR. MACLEOD: So was that a yes?
MS. TAWEEL: The Premier's Office has a level of approval, yes. Their approval comes after the public awareness campaign, or whatever we're referring to, has been approved through all the departmental channels, and other departments as well that are impacted by the communications that we are preparing to share with Nova Scotians.
MR. MACLEOD: So the final approval comes from the Premier's Office and if they decide that, no, we don't like it, that's the end of it?
MS. TAWEEL: I wouldn't suggest that that is entirely accurate. No, there are many occasions where departments and agencies are communicating with Nova Scotians carrying on routine transactions as they should be done - in a very timely, expeditious manner. Matters such as a large-scale public awareness campaign where relatively large sums of money are being expended need to be approved within the management team of the department that has responsibility; they are approved through Communications Nova Scotia through myself and my deputy minister; and ultimately they are also approved by the Premier's Office. It's a very collaborative, iterative approach.
MR. MACLEOD: The Ships Start Here project cost $365,337.38, according to figures that we got. Did someone at CNS have a seat at the steering committee on the Ships Start Here campaign?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, in fact we had a few employees who had a seat at that table. Our managing director Rick Alexander - who is actually not with Communications Nova Scotia right now - was a member of that committee, as was Kathleen Trott, our managing director of marketing. At times, some of the communications resources that we have assigned to Economic and Rural Development and Tourism also participated on that committee, although not as formal members.
MR. MACLEOD: And from where or from whom did you receive your direction?
MS. TAWEEL: In terms of participating in the Ships campaign?
MR. MACLEOD: Participating and flowing through with the campaign.
MS. TAWEEL: CNS was asked to become involved in the Ships campaign by the Deputy Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism.
MR. MACLEOD: Can you break down where your time was spent - the money was spent, rather, like Web sites, printing and design and those types of things? How did the money get disbursed?
MS. TAWEEL: CNS's involvement, in terms of the funds that we contributed, which represent roughly half of the government's commitment to the Ships Start Here campaign - our role was to facilitate the media buy in terms of billboards, television and radio ads, to ensure that we leveraged every opportunity to reach out with this public awareness campaign right across the province. So our role was in the media buying only. The creative design and such, we were not involved in that.
MR. MACLEOD: You say your department paid for about half of the costs mentioned - where did the other funding come from?
MS. TAWEEL: The other funding came from within, I believe, Economic and Rural Development and Tourism and NSBI.
MR. MACLEOD: What was the process to get this campaign approved - how did the campaign get approved? I know you just outlined your process - did this follow the same process, and can you give us an idea just how did the Ships Start Here campaign get approval?
MS. TAWEEL: As I'm sure you are aware, there was a ships table it was called - a group of individuals comprised of folks representing the business sector, not-for-profits, chambers of commerce, as well as government, had a seat at that table. At that table, creative concepts were shared and the campaign was scoped out and shared at that table. That table ultimately made decisions about how the campaign would be shaped and early on recognized that this ultimately was a game-changing opportunity and, as such, it was important that Nova Scotians be made aware of what that opportunity could represent for this province.
Ultimately that flowed through the ships table. We, again, executed the media buy to place the ads and ensure we were getting good value for dollar; in fact, I’m very pleased to say that in many instances the media that we worked with were so excited about the opportunity that they oftentimes offered up free advertising space to ensure that we achieved the reach we were hoping for.
MR. MACLEOD: Can you tell us who was at the ships table - who was represented there?
MS. TAWEEL: I could not give you an entire list, I’d have to come back and give that list to you. It’s a table that has, I would suggest, at least 20 to 25 members. But I could provide you with that list, certainly.
MR. MACLEOD: If you could, that would be very helpful. Thank you.
Can you tell us who was involved with the final approval of this Ships Start Here campaign?
MS. TAWEEL: I believe, as I just outlined, the ships table was instrumental in the approval and moving forward with the Ships Start Here campaign, recognizing the importance of this opportunity and ensuring that their various constituencies, as well as all Nova Scotians, would respond well to the creative concepts. It was very much a collaborative process.
MR. MACLEOD: We believe that this was the single largest campaign of the 2011-12 year. Was there a maximum spending limit put on this campaign when you started or was it just go and do it and then let us know what it cost? How did the dollars flow and were there any restrictions put on you as a department?
MS. TAWEEL: Well, there are always restrictions placed on us as a department, I would suggest, and on any department, given that we are spending taxpayers’ dollars. It is never acceptable to say we’re just going to spend without restrictions. That is never an approach that we would take at Communications Nova Scotia and it’s never an approach that we are encouraged to take by any of our colleagues in any department or agency in government.
In terms of how we scoped out this particular project, the Ships Start Here campaign, we looked at what dollar amount would secure us broad reach across the province and then reached out and spoke with media across the province, as well to talk to them about partnering with us so that we could further leverage the amount of money that we had available to us.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, at the start of each fiscal year we develop our corporate communications plan and we allocate our budget accordingly. It was necessary for us to look at the funds that we had set aside for public awareness campaigns to ensure we could accommodate the Ships Start Here campaign within that envelope. We could, roughly in the amount that I believe you cited earlier - right to the penny, - just over $300,000.
MR. MACLEOD: It’s interesting because you know we’ve been told, and there have been many media reports that the shipbuilding contract was impartial - there was no influence from lobbying, there was no influence from advertising, and yet we go out and spend over $365,000. I guess we’d have to ask what was the objective of the Ships Start Here campaign when it was a non-partisan campaign? We’d been told by everybody across the country that lobbying wasn’t going to help, advertising wasn’t going to help, and we go out and spend over $0.25 million on a campaign for something that we were told wouldn’t have any impact.
Why would we do that? Where did the direction come from to spend that kind of money on a project for a contract that it was well known that lobbying and advertising wasn’t going to help - where did the direction come from to spend over $0.25 million?
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest that it would have been an oversight on the part of government and on the part of government’s communications agency to not want to seize on this amazing opportunity to educate and raise the awareness level of all Nova Scotians about what an incredible opportunity the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy represents, and could represent, at that point in time for Nova Scotians.
It’s important that Nova Scotians understand all that Nova Scotia has to offer to build pride of place, to make sure that they are aware of all of the amazing talent and expertise that exists within this province. The Ships Start Here campaign was a remarkable success, not simply because Irving secured the contract - the public awareness campaign was not about that, the public awareness campaign was about instilling a sense of pride and ownership in Nova Scotians, to encourage them to have a little swagger in their step about all that Nova Scotia is and can be.
That public awareness campaign attempted to tap into that sort of latent sentiment that exists, I believe, with all Nova Scotians from end of the province to the other, to encourage them to pay attention to this incredible opportunity and to make sure that they were ready to seize the opportunities when they were presented to them.
MR. MACLEOD: Where did the idea come from? Did it come from your minister, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development, from the Premier’s office - who started this ball rolling?
MS. TAWEEL: The ships table started this ball rolling. That group, that very passionate group of, as I said earlier, not-for-profits, chambers of commerce, different businesses, different interests from one sort of faction to another, came together and said this is an amazing opportunity, the likes of which this province has never seen, and in fact may never see again. It’s very important that we use this as a jumping-off point to tap into that pride of place that Nova Scotians have.
MR. MACLEOD: Did the other provinces that were bidding, the other areas that were bidding, did their provinces jump into a fray like this and spend this kind of money?
MS. TAWEEL: British Columbia did have a campaign running, absolutely.
MR. MACLEOD: And it made no difference?
MS. TAWEEL: I couldn’t tell you what difference it made. I don’t live in British Columbia, so I’m not sure the impact that it had on the citizens of British Columbia. All I can speak to is the impact I believe that it had in Nova Scotia, which was to instill pride within Nova Scotians. I think you could ask any number of people - they seem to even remember where they were the day that the announcement took place, they were watching that closely. They were very aware of the strategy and of the potential for Nova Scotia that could be achieved through this incredible opportunity.
Now we have the opportunity to educate them about what training opportunities are available to them and how they can take advantage of this opportunity to benefit themselves and their families.
MR. MACLEOD: Well I don’t know every Nova Scotian on a first-name basis - but I’m working on that. I will tell you this - Nova Scotians don’t need an advertising campaign to instill pride in their province in them; they don’t need an advertising campaign to identify what may or may not be happening. Nova Scotians are a very proud people and we know that from just being around and dealing with people on a regular basis. So it still comes back to me as to how we can justify spending $365,000 on a campaign, on a project, where we were told that advertising and lobbying was not going to have an effect.
If you’re saying it was just to instill pride in people, I’m not sure that I can buy into that - if you want to instill pride into them, maybe we should have left the money available so they could have teachers’ aides and some other things for health care (Interruption) a ferry in Yarmouth - there’s all other kinds of things that could have instilled pride.
I’m really concerned with the fact that $365,000 was taken, was spent on this campaign, on something that we were told by many, many different people that lobbying would not have an effect, and yet we as a province went forward and we did that. It’s very disturbing that you would take half of that out of your budget, and another half of it came out of the budget of the Economic and Rural Development, and we really don’t know what impact it had.
People are proud, yes, but people would be a lot prouder if we actually see some jobs. At this point we still haven’t seen any jobs created from this expenditure and I’m just not sure - and I guess we’re not going to find the answer here today, but it’s kind of disturbing that this took place and we can’t identify who made the initial thought. I mean, you’re saying this ships table did, but again we’re not sure who was at the table; we’re not sure who was giving direction from the government - because this was a government expenditure. It wasn’t an expenditure of chambers of commerce or anybody else - this was the Province of Nova Scotia . . .
MS. TAWEEL: Actually, if I could clarify that. There were contributions made by some members of that ships table, absolutely.
MR. MACLEOD: How much?
MS. TAWEEL: I can get you that, absolutely.
MR. MACLEOD: Would it be $100,000 or $150,000 - would it be half of it?
MS. TAWEEL: I don’t have that number with me today, but I can get that number for you, absolutely.
MR. MACLEOD: I’d appreciate that very much. So from your memory of the ships table, do you know who some of the government people were at that table - the Province of Nova Scotia people who were at that table - you listed some from your department - was there somebody there from the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, the table, in fact, was chaired by the Acting Deputy Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism and there were other members from that department, yes, who sat on the committee, as well as representatives of NSBI.
MR. MACLEOD: Was there anybody there from the Premier’s Office?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, there were representatives from the Premier’s Office as well.
MR. MACLEOD: Do you recall who they might have been?
MS. TAWEEL: Melissa MacKinnon, who is a communications advisor with Communications Nova Scotia, assigned within the Treasury Board and Executive Council office, she also had a seat at that table and there were other members of the Premier’s Office as well who sat at that table. There were other members of government who sat at that table as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. MacLeod’s time has expired.
MR. MAT WHYNOTT: Thanks for coming. I think one of the things, as you mentioned in your opening statement, Nova Scotians want to know what their government is doing for them. Oftentimes, government gets painted with a picture of - maybe not necessarily always - people don’t necessarily like to have government in their lives, but I think they want to know what the government is doing for them.
I want to just tell you a quick little story. I was down at the announcement of the Ships Start Here, on the day that it was announced, and I think many of my colleagues were there, and the buzz in Halifax that day, and I think probably across Nova Scotia, was amazing. You just felt it in the air, and for weeks and months after we’re still feeling it. I think that is why people signed on to it. I don’t think that the buzz would have been the way it was if that campaign didn’t exist. I think that’s why all Parties in the Legislature - their Leaders - signed on to it. In fact, I have a quote here from the Ships Start Here Web site, from the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party saying that it’s a good thing; the same as the Leader of the Official Opposition signed on here - so I would like to remind them of that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you please table that? The rules are we should have a copy of that for all members as well.
MR. WHYNOTT: We can get that, yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would you do that now, please?
MR. WHYNOTT: Yes.
What is your background in communications?
MS. TAWEEL: I attended Mount Saint Vincent University. I have a Public Relations Degree and a Master’s Degree, as well, in Communications, and a Political Science Degree. Prior to joining the provincial government, I worked for about 14 years with the federal government in a variety of communications roles.
MR. WHYNOTT: So you have been in communications for a long time.
MS. TAWEEL: Yes.
MR. WHYNOTT: I would say that you know what you’re doing.
MS. TAWEEL: I hope so.
MR. WHYNOTT: Again, I think it’s important to highlight that, that you, and everyone within Communications Nova Scotia, are highly qualified people; they know what they’re doing and I would reference that and remind all members who sit on the committee that we do have highly professional people who work in Communications Nova Scotia, who do know what they’re doing.
MS. TAWEEL: Absolutely, and if I could just add one comment - I think a testament to the work of the people at Communications Nova Scotia, and even to how we’re structured, lies in the fact that many other jurisdictions have emulated the model of Communications Nova Scotia right down to, you know, even our job descriptions and how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.
MR. WHYNOTT: I want to talk a little bit - I know you referenced social media in your opening comments, I think in particular with Twitter, and I think more Nova Scotians are getting on Twitter and using that social media aspect; I know I am. One thing I did notice, and I don’t know if this is maybe a criticism or not, but I find that every department has its own Twitter call name. I always find, you know, whether or not you’re - I think it’s NS Environment or NS Education, but would it not make sense just to have everybody coming out of one call name?
MS. TAWEEL: I would love that ultimately. And I think back to my opening remarks and some of the responses that I have provided thus far this morning - I do believe strongly that consistency in message, and even origin of where the message is coming from, is really important so that people do recognize who is communicating with them. It’s a real asset that we have as the Government of Nova Scotia, there’s a lot of credibility and equity, if you will, in any message that is delivered by the government. People do pay attention when they’re receiving a message from the government and they want to learn more.
I think we need to do everything we can to ensure we are consistently delivering on that expectation through the use of things like consistent naming and, you know, hence my comment earlier about even our corporate Web site.
I think sometimes we confuse people by having far too many domain names and sub-domain names. It can be confusing, and it’s a challenge to cut through the clutter of people’s daily lives already - we shouldn’t be adding to that confusion with things such as what you’ve just referenced.
MR. WHYNOTT: No, I think it would be important for us to find a way to do that. I think Efficiency Nova Scotia in fact has one of the highest followings of any Twitter name in Nova Scotia. They were here a couple weeks ago and they referenced that they pride themselves in that, and I think it’s because they engage people through social media and the rest of it. So that’s good.
Are we on Facebook?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, we are.
MR. WHYNOTT: Do we use that regularly?
MS. TAWEEL: We do. We use it very regularly. Could we use it more regularly? Absolutely. Do we need to look at other social media platforms, other forums? We absolutely need to but, yes, we are on Facebook. I can’t tell you off the top of my head what our followers are, but we’re very popular.
MR. WHYNOTT: Excellent. How do we compare to other provinces when it comes to our Web site and our corporate kind of messaging and that sort of thing? I mean, I’ve looked at many other government Web sites across the country and by far I think our Web site is the best - and more recently I think we’ve moved the design of the Web site, I think it was just in the last six months where the main page had changed . . .
MS. TAWEEL: Yes.
MR. WHYNOTT: Can you comment a little bit about other provinces?
MS. TAWEEL: Certainly. Nova Scotia is seen as having one of the best government Web sites in the country. However, there’s still a lot more, I believe, that we could do, especially in light of, you know, your earlier comments referencing Twitter and other forms of social media. I think the Web holds endless possibilities for us as a government and as a communications agency.
Over the next number of months in fact we will be working across government to develop a corporate social media strategy to make sure that we are taking advantage of all those opportunities, and other issues such as the sub-domain names and even the fact that each department has its own unique Web site. But we try our best to ensure it is tied together with the same corporate look and feel. Sometimes it’s not as consistent as it should be because of the sheer size of government and the number of communicators that we have - so sort of eating the elephant, I guess, one bite at a time.
So first we need a very strong corporate social media and Web strategy in place. Once that's in place, over the next number of years we will work to implement that to take our Web site and our social media presence to an even higher level. We need to do that; we have to speak to Nova Scotians where they are, in particular youth, and we know that they're not picking up the newspaper. We know that is not how we need to communicate with them and, as future leaders, we need them to understand the decisions that their government is making and how that can impact them.
MR. WHYNOTT: When you made the switch to the new design of the Web site, I found that some of the departments didn't follow. I assume that the conversion is still happening - when will that be complete?
MS. TAWEEL: My hope is that it will be complete very soon. The way Communications Nova Scotia is structured is that all communicators, as you would be aware, who are employed by the Government of Nova Scotia are part of Communications Nova Scotia and some of them are deployed out to departments. Web masters work within departments, they are employees of particular line departments, so we work very collaboratively together. But those resources are not necessarily within the purview of Communications Nova Scotia, so those Web masters also need to make sure that they are tending to the content on the site and other programmatic needs that they need to fulfil.
My hope would be that in the next number of months we will have complete uniformity across all Web sites and we'll be in a much better place to ensure that Nova Scotians see consistency, regardless of where they go when they visit the government on-line.
MR. WHYNOTT: Has there been any thought - we're all getting into smartphones and BlackBerrys and iPads and iPhones and all the other types of smartphones - have we discussed or thought about developing an app?
MS. TAWEEL: In fact we will be ready to launch an app that will be ready in, I believe, July - in the next two months we're ready to launch that, yes.
MR. WHYNOTT: Really, that's awesome. So will that be for all smartphones or just starting off with BlackBerrys?
MS. TAWEEL: It will start off with BlackBerrys and it will also be available for Mac products as well.
MR. WHYNOTT: Great, cool. How do the communications services and supports you provide to this government differ from previous governments?
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest that in many instances there isn't a lot of differences since our inception in 1996; we've always played a role. Our mandate has stayed the same - our role is to communicate to Nova Scotians what their government is doing, and why they're doing it, in a timely manner. We do that in a way that is non-partisan; we provide advice on a variety of issues and we provide that advice regardless of who has formed the government of the day.
Certainly how we deliver on that responsibility, I would suggest, has changed. That is not necessarily a function of the current government, but rather a function of the public environment within which we work. The conversation that we just had about social media is a prime example. We would be not doing our jobs properly if we insisted on continuing to rely on print, for example, as a means to deliver our message - we need to look at a variety of means and methods to get our message out there.
What we do hasn't fundamentally changed, but how we do it has. I guess the bottom line would be, from my perspective, that we are always working to achieve the best results in the best interests of Nova Scotians - and that has remained consistent, it has been our direction consistently since we were created in 1996.
MR. WHYNOTT: You mentioned in your opening remarks around cost savings and we all know that every government, agency, department, board across government has been asked to have their own expenditure management initiatives - can you talk a little bit about how you've achieved the savings in Communications Nova Scotia?
MS. TAWEEL: Certainly. I can certainly give you a number of examples. As you've referenced, all departments and agencies have been asked to reduce expenditures and to assist government in getting back to balance - Communications Nova Scotia is no different in that regard.
To start, I guess, we've improved, I would suggest, our overall approach to communications by ensuring that more work is being sort of pulled in-house, if you will. So rather than drawing down off our standing offer and using external communications support, we first look to exhaust all of our internal resources to ensure that first we’re looking inside before we expend any taxpayers’ dollars outside, if you will. That has resulted in savings of approximately 28 per cent since 2007. Our media buying has remained consistent over the past number of years, although we do work very hard to secure the most competitive rates possible. I think the ships campaign provides an excellent example of how, in working in partnership with media right across the province, we are able to leverage limited dollars and they are very supportive of public awareness campaigns that we undertake as a government.
Other channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are available to us at little to no cost. It’s just a matter of ensuring that we’ve packaged the information appropriately so that it works on those platforms, so we’re certainly using those platforms more effectively. We’ve also put guidelines in place to ensure that promotional products are only purchased if absolutely necessary, and that has resulted in a 50 per cent decrease in terms of the promotional products purchased.
MR. WHYNOTT: And that’s since 2007?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes.
MR. WHYNOTT: What sort of promotional materials are you talking about?
MS. TAWEEL: Things like pens, pads of paper, mugs, and things that any given department might want to provide at a conference or a meeting or things like that. Prior to a couple of years ago we did not have guidelines in place, did not have such strict controls over the purchase of such materials. We do now, and we ensure that those purchases are made when they are needed to be made, and when they make sense they are made - but if not, they aren’t.
MR. WHYNOTT: I’m think I’m going to pass time over to Mr. Ramey, just for the last few minutes. Thank you so much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ramey, you have just a little bit less than five minutes.
MR. GARY RAMEY: Thank you very much. I’ve been listening with interest to what you said, and I was thinking when you were answering some of the questions previously, some that were asked by Mr. Younger and some that were asked by my colleagues over here, we’re in this sort of perfect storm of communication modes, and my colleague to my right was referencing Twitter - and there are a million different ways to hook up with people, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, all that stuff, and yet I know in my own constituency I have many constituents who don’t own a computer. And it’s not necessarily a factor of age of people, because I know there are a number of seniors who are on-line and know how to use computers and use them regularly.
In this sort of rural constituency that I have, I do have large numbers of people who are not in any way hooked into the conventional modern medium. I would argue that the information they get largely comes from the provincial daily paper and TV - and I would even argue more so TV. I noticed when you were talking earlier you mentioned that TV seems to be a very effective way to communicate with Nova Scotians. I was wondering, do you have any statistics on the number of people in Nova Scotia who own computers or who are linked in some way - do we have any knowledge base on that?
MS. TAWEEL: I could get those numbers for you; certainly the research does exist. I apologize I don’t have those numbers with me today, but in terms of the opening remarks that you made before asking that question, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think we need, as a public service, a public sector communications agency, we have to be ever mindful of the fact that we are not a homogeneous province in any way and we need to always be considering a variety of modes and means to reach the residents of this province.
You’ve articulated a fact - not everyone in this province, be they rural or urban, they don’t necessarily have access to a computer or, perhaps I would argue, some people are not even interested, regardless even of their age, in following Twitter or being on Facebook, for example.
I believe it is incumbent upon us as public servants, and as a public sector communications agency, to ensure that all of the campaigns we undertake are multi-faceted, they are integrated, and they include “traditional,” if you will - I use that term loosely - traditional communications as well as the more modern forms of communicating unlike, say, a private sector organization who could maybe make a decision that they weren’t going to pursue forms of communication that fall within the more traditional realm any longer because of their client base. It was unnecessary for us; I believe it will always be necessary for us to utilize a strong mix of traditional and non-traditional to ensure that we are treating all citizens equitably and getting the information to them in a way that makes sense for them.
MR. RAMEY: Well I couldn’t agree more with that, and I hope you will continue to do that.
I had just another question. I know I’ll probably run out of time on the answer maybe, but Mr. Younger referenced Kids and Learning First advertising that he sees on Global, on different channels on TV.
It was my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, I thought the report that Mr. Levin did on education in this province, he called for government to better inform and engage Nova Scotians in the discussion about public education and, as a result, that was one of the ways Communications Nova Scotia was trying to do it - is that correct, or am I incorrect on that?
MS. TAWEEL: No, you are correct, absolutely. Part of the Kids and Learning First campaign is certainly to engage . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Unfortunately, Mr. Ramey’s time has expired.
MR. YOUNGER: I want to continue with some of the things that we were talking about, but just a couple of things I’ve heard in the meantime here.
On the Twitter accounts, and I agree - it’s an evolving thing - and to start with, I do understand that you’re still trying to figure all that out. I’m on Twitter, but I can’t stand Twitter personally - and I don’t like Facebook much, but I’m on that too. The question I have though is, obviously, there’s a difference between a government Twitter account - I know they don’t cost anything, there’s no cost to the government to manage that, but you often see the government Twitter accounts arguing with citizens over policy via Twitter, which seems really strange to me, and maybe it’s okay. I’m wondering what the policies are around it because it seems the EMO one operates the way I would assume an official government Twitter account would normally operate - okay, there’s flooding, get candles because there’s a hurricane coming - things like that, right? And I think that makes a lot of sense.
Some of the other ones, the Justice Department is one of the ones that is most aggressive, actually will go out - and it’s not even after MLAs of other Parties - somebody will criticize a government position and copy @nsjustice, or whatever it is, and they get into these Twitter fights. Is there a policy around where the line is for government? I know there is political staff and they can kind of do what they want, and there are their personal accounts, but I’m talking about the actual government ones.
MS. TAWEEL: We do have social media guidelines that have been in place for probably two years now. Those guidelines do cover what you’ve just described - an official sort of government Twitter account. The guidelines do specify that if a public servant, if an employee wants to engage in a discussion to correct misinformation or to add further information to a discussion that is ongoing, they do need to first identify themselves as representing the government as a public servant so that is clear and there is no ambiguity in terms of where the message is coming from.
The guidelines do also stipulate that if responding as a public servant, it is necessary to not add in any personal opinion - that’s what a personal Twitter account would be for, not the government Twitter account. I’ve not seen any of the examples that you’re referencing but we do have guidelines in place to sort of guard against some of that.
MR. YOUNGER: Yes, and honestly I would have printed off some of the stuff had I even thought about it but I didn’t think about it until my colleague here was talking about Twitter and it just made me wonder, but there is a written policy somewhere?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, there is.
MR. YOUNGER: Is it possible for the committee to get a copy of that?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, absolutely.
MR. YOUNGER: That would be great. As I say, I do recognize that there is a bit, you know, it’s a grey area and that line is probably a little bit fuzzy and, in all honesty, there’s a big difference between departments. Some departments just seem to, you know, they’ll provide information and they will politely correct something, but then there are other departments that seem to be - and it probably depends to some extent on the personality of who’s managing that particular Twitter account, I guess.
So CNS started in 1996 in one form or another. Incidentally, in the 40 minutes that the others were talking, we looked up the slogans of the Tories and the Liberals and never before has there been a slogan that was remotely close to the political Party platform slogan on government signage or things like that, just for the record. In fact, in most years it just had - and I’m not even suggesting this is a good slogan to have for road signs - Canada’s Ocean Playground, is basically what it said in most years. I don’t know if it’s still our official tag line but it’s certainly on the licence plates. Since it did start in 1996 - obviously you contract some stuff out to private advertising agencies, you don’t do it all yourself. So the tourism contract is a big one but there are other ones. Do you have a sense of the percentage of work, like how that percentage of work that goes to the private sector has changed over those years?
MS. TAWEEL: I couldn’t give you an exact sort of percentage but I mean I can tell you our numbers would demonstrate, when we do a comparison between 2007 and 2011, that we have reduced our expenditures on external communications spending, which included in that would be firms such as you’ve just referenced. We’ve reduced that by about 28 per cent over the course of the last, you know, this four-year period since 2007.
The nature of our business, as we’ve been discussing here all morning, continues to evolve and with it we are evolving in terms of the skills of the individuals that we recruit to work at Communications Nova Scotia. So if we start to notice that we consistently need to go outside for a particular area of expertise, then we look to redeploy resources from within, or as vacancies present themselves, we look to recruit people who might be able to help us close that gap a little bit more cost effectively than going outside.
MR. YOUNGER: That was going to be my next question: do you actually determine which skill sets it’s more cost effective to have internally as opposed to externally?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, we do. We try our best to do that, absolutely. There was a point in time, for example, when we went out to recruit, we would do a broad, just sort of a recruitment-for-general list, so for communicators generally to fill a variety of levels - officers, advisers, directors - and they would come to us with a variety of experiences and skill sets. Given our desire to make sure that we are much more focused and targeted in terms of the skills that we have within the agency, now when we recruit we look very specifically for a particular expertise.
So an example might be in the marketing area, we might look for someone who has education and background in marketing, specifically trained in marketing versus a more general degree that might have been sort of - or experience that might have been acceptable in the past. We’re trying our best to evolve with the environment that is evolving around us. I’m sure you can appreciate, even the Twitter discussion, it’s hard sometimes to stay on top of the skill sets that are needed to be truly competitive and leading edge. Government has finite resources. It will never be possible for us to have all of the skills that we could use.
MR. YOUNGER: No, and I’m not suggesting you should. The other question about the finite resources is - so you go out and, say, look for someone with a marketing background and there are lots of different valuable backgrounds to have, your background is primarily in government communications, which obviously it would be crazy not to have somebody with a background in government communications involved, but as you've just said, the diversity is important. It seems like half the former employees of the Daily News work somewhere in Communications Nova Scotia too. I think that was probably just a timing thing and that’s good because it meant that they’re not unemployed and at least they’re working close to their field. I think probably in terms of spokespeople, having people who have some sort of news background is useful because they know what news folks are looking for. But in terms of the skill sets, in terms of advertising and marketing, I can’t possibly think that you can compete on a salary basis with what you can make in some of the private agencies. Is that fair to say?
MS. TAWEEL: That’s absolutely fair. The people that we recruit or who want to come and work with Communications Nova Scotia are not coming for the money. They are coming because they have a passion for public service and that’s the work that they want to do. Now having said that, I think our salaries are - we’re very well paid and we’re privileged to work for the Government of Nova Scotia. I think anyone who works in CNS would say the same, but primarily when people come to work for us they’re not coming for salary. You’re quite correct - they could likely make a much higher salary in the private sector, absolutely.
MR. YOUNGER: This gets back to the issue of how you track the success of various advertising campaigns and not just the campaign, but the elements of the campaign. I know you try to keep up on the research as much as possible, but you also - listen, your job is two things, I guess - putting out fires but also trying to come up with plans. It’s the job of agencies to know what’s on the bleeding edge, if you will, of communications, advertising and marketing. Do you end up missing out on that by taking more and more of it in-house? Obviously, there is a line, right? On the one hand, you don’t want to spend money that you shouldn’t be spending, but on the other hand, you also don’t want to be building an empire within government, of communications, and then not really seeing what’s going on outside.
Obviously, they went outside for Ships Start Here and I think that brought in other partners and so forth, and my other colleague talked about that so I don’t need to reiterate what he said. So there was a benefit in that, but there are other ones that you don’t end up doing and you talked about having similar messaging and so people know that when they see something it’s from the Government of Nova Scotia and its official message, but every department has their own look. I know you’re moving toward similar looks on the Web sites, but even in the advertising we see and the types of what the television ads look like, what the print stuff looks like, it’s all different.
MS. TAWEEL: I will go back to maybe the first part of your question. In terms of ensuring that we stay leading edge, if you will, or best in class when it comes to the communications environment, CNS, like many departments and agencies within government, we believe in continuous learning. We promote continuous learning and we try to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself in terms of developing our skills in a particular area as it begins to emerge. I think as a general rule, communications professionals are curious by nature; they want to stay leading edge and they want to make sure that they are tapping into the absolute best method to communicate with the audiences that they’re trying to reach. Some of that is in the genes, if you will, I think, in terms of professionals who pursue this type of career. You referenced some former journalists that we have working with us. There is no arguing that they have a natural curiosity and seek to pursue research and best practice in a number of areas.
Myself, the decision that I made in terms of pursuing a Master in Communications was for the exact reason that you cite. It was to ensure that I was as up to speed and as fully versed in this area as I could possibly be to lead the agency.
In terms of the look and feel of the campaigns that you’ve referenced, yes, each campaign is unique and different. It is unique and different for a very solid reason, which is, each campaign has its own unique set of objectives and its own unique audience that we are trying to reach, so the flavour of the Better Care Sooner ad wouldn't necessarily work with the jobsHere campaign. The business community is probably not going to respond well to bobble-head, animated characters in the same way that a health care message will resonate with a family with a mom at home who takes note of calling 811. So the tactics, the tools, the look, very much fit with the objectives of the campaign. The unifying element for all of those campaigns is the fact that it's coming from the Government of Nova Scotia, that's the unifying element and that is ultimately what ties it all together.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, and so to circle back on this, where we ran out of time the last time, one of the things I had asked about was if there's a written policy that says exactly where the line is that can't be crossed, like what you guys define as partisan or political, is there a written policy on that?
MS. TAWEEL: Yes, there is.
MR. YOUNGER: Okay, so it would be good if the committee could get a copy of that at some point. That would be very helpful, thank you.
The second question is, and I asked this before and then we ran out of time, so he didn't let you answer it - the chairman didn't let you answer it, sorry, not "he" - who suggested the tag line on the signs, the families one?
MS. TAWEEL: That's on the current signs that you're referring to now?
MR. YOUNGER: Yes.
MS. TAWEEL: That was an iterative process with Communications Nova Scotia, the Premier's Office and others.
MR. YOUNGER: But somebody said, here's the Nova Scotia blue sign that we've used for - and I realize it has changed slightly but we were just going through and looking at pictures of them, but as long as Communications Nova Scotia has been there, they didn't change that much. They were basically identical over various Parties and governments and somebody obviously said huh, we should change that. Somebody sat down and said wow, we should change that.
MS. TAWEEL: Right. So I would suggest that the change came about in - it was a very iterative process but as I mentioned in an earlier response, the platform commitment that political Parties put forward to the electorate and upon which they are ultimately elected, becomes the policy mandate for government. Contained within that mandate is a variety of different messaging, language.
When government changed, Communications Nova Scotia, worked with the Premier's Office and our other communicators that . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Unfortunately you're not going to get to answer that question again. Mr. Younger's time has run out. Mr. Younger has to learn to ask those questions sooner in his time if he wants the answer.
Next is Mr. MacLeod, and there are 16 minutes. Sorry, I didn't say that first.
MR. MACLEOD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Did I hear you right when you said that there is no policy that guides CNS when deciding which ads to produce?
MS. TAWEEL: I did not say that, no.
MR. MACLEOD: So are there guidelines or a policy, I should say, that guides CNS when deciding which ads to produce? Is there a policy? How do you decide which ads?
MS. TAWEEL: Each year we work with our colleagues out in departments to determine what their priorities are for the coming year, upon which we then make decisions about a corporation communications strategy, as well as corporate marketing plans for the year. That's how we decide what we're going to be advertising over the course of the coming year.
The priorities of government - CNS exists to support the priorities of government in their various forms, from various departments. So obviously that's also a filter that needs to be applied. So jobs, health, the economy, those are all priorities of government, so our annual planning obviously includes those elements and can also include other elements that come up from within departments.
As an example, the immunization campaign was not necessarily on our radar screen when we started our planning last year but it came to the fore by virtue of the department saying, we have an issue in this area, can you help us?
MR. MACLEOD: Thank you, and I appreciate that, but I guess my question, and maybe it was my fault I didn’t ask it properly, so I’ll try again. There must be criteria for when you’re producing an ad, regardless of how you decide that you are going to do an ad - like is it the best bang for the buck, will it communicate the message that we need? - there must be a series of questions you ask about how do I produce an ad. Is there a policy, yes or no, I guess is the question - is there a policy? You explained to us how you get your priorities, but I want to understand if there is a policy on how ads, once its decided you’re going to do one, to make sure it indeed fits certain criteria.
MS. TAWEEL: Perhaps it’s the use of the word “policy.” There is a process, absolutely, that we follow whenever we determine that we are going forward with any sort of campaign, be it an advertising campaign or a public relations campaign. That process involves sitting down and defining what the objectives are for the campaign. Then we follow a process of saying what elements make sense to deliver on these objectives. If a decision is made that advertising is part of that, then we follow a process of drafting creative and ensuring that it is delivering the message that it needs to deliver in the best interest of Nova Scotians. Communications Nova Scotia is government’s non-partisan agency, so the content of adverting and communications messaging and the advice we provide is always non-partisan in nature
MR. MACLEOD: I guess I’m failing communications today, because I don’t think I still asked the question properly. But we’ll move on for a second anyway. If an ad is too political, would it pass the standards of CNS?
MS. TAWEEL: CNS would not create an ad that was too political. We are a non- partisan agency; the ads that we create are non-partisan.
MR. MACLEOD: What are you guidelines for making that decision then?
MS. TAWEEL: We have communications policies and protocols in place in terms of how all communications materials are drafted. They are not necessarily specific to advertising, but we ensure that the message is non-partisan in nature, that it communicates the objectives of the program or service that we are communicating about, and that it is in the best interest of Nova Scotians.
MR. MACLEOD: So who would decide then if an ad fit into that criteria, who makes the final decision on an ad?
MS. TAWEEL: I believe as I discussed earlier, we do have an approval process that would involve the line department, where the program lives, and that would include the senior executive, whoever is in charge of that program, the deputy minister, the minister, Communications Nova Scotia plays a role - there are a number of players who are involved in that. Ultimately, information that comes through Communications Nova Scotia, I have accountability for ensuring that it adheres to our policies and procedures and our guidelines and that, in my view, it is the absolute best communications that we can put forward.
MR. MACLEOD: Since June of 2009, have there been ads that CNS has refused to produce?
MS. TAWEEL: None that I can recall.
MR. MACLEOD: Interesting. The mission of CNS is to help Nova Scotians understand what our government is doing and why. Broadcasting ads that promote a service, while the same service is being cut doesn’t seem to be helping Nova Scotians understand what the government is doing and why. It seems to make the water muddier with conflicting messages - do you feel that when you’re producing an ad about health care or education, and at the same time the government is cutting those very programs, is that following the mission of CNS?
MS. TAWEEL: I believe it absolutely is, and I think Nova Scotians are incredibly smart and savvy consumers and they recognize the need to balance good service with the need to ensure that we are being fiscally responsible across all sectors, health being one of them. Ultimately the Better Care Sooner, to use that as an example since you did reference health, that campaign is about helping Nova Scotians understand how to properly use the system and what avenues are available to them that they might not be aware of. The 811 piece of that campaign, I think, is a shining example of the impact that can be had by investing in a public awareness campaign to help Nova Scotians use the system better - a 181 per cent increase is astounding in terms of calls. Those are people that might have made a decision to take their baby to the emergency room to sit and wait when perhaps the care that they need could have been had at home. Or, conversely, might not have taken the step to call 911 but have done so because they called 811 and received the care and advice that they deserve and then know the appropriate steps to take. I would suggest to you that Nova Scotians can balance and do understand the messaging that is being delivered by government and do understand the need to balance out the two.
MR. MACLEOD: You raised an interesting point. You say the 811 piece which had an investment of $188,000 - you can quantify how that helped people and made a difference. Can you do the same thing with the Ships Start Here campaign?
MS. TAWEEL: We have anecdotal feedback from organizations like the chamber of commerce. It’s much more difficult to measure a campaign like that than it is to measure calls coming in through a call centre, I’m sure you can appreciate. Certainly, anecdotally, we are fully aware that businesses and Nova Scotians were very excited and passionate about this opportunity and took hold of this campaign; sort of wrapped their arms around it and fully embraced it.
MR. MACLEOD: It just seems odd to me that you can spend three times as much on a campaign and have no way of knowing what kind of results you’re getting, and you can spend $188,000 and be able to quantify the results and understand the good it’s doing for people in Nova Scotia. You spend three times that amount of money and, outside of anecdotes by people, you can’t tell if it did any good.
Again, it comes back to the question of, why would we spend that kind of money on a program that we can’t prove that it did any good and that we were told time and time again that lobbying and advertising would not make a difference in the outcome?
MS. TAWEEL: I’m not sure what the question was. I have to be honest, I’m sorry.
MR. MACLEOD: The question is, I just don’t understand how we could spend that kind of money on a program and we can’t qualify what it actually did for us. You said earlier that it instilled pride in Nova Scotians, and I would debate with you that Nova Scotians are already full of pride. When you talk to me about 811, you said the investment showed a quantitative increase in the number of people that used it. That means the investment was made there, there was a real result.
The investment of almost three times that amount of money in the Ships Start Here campaign - what is the tangible thing that you can point to and tell us, tell the Province of Nova Scotia, what it did to make this province better?
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest to you that we raised awareness of the campaign and of the importance of this opportunity for all Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, helped ready them for the training opportunities that may come their way, helped make them aware of this opportunity.
As I’ve said a number of times this morning, each and every campaign that we undertake or that we are a part of is unique in terms of what its objectives are. I’ve articulated for you what the objectives of Ships Start Here were and we’ve discussed a number of other campaigns here this morning. The Ships Start Here campaign, I would suggest, was an incredible success in terms of the objectives that we’ve put forth which was to raise awareness and to ensure Nova Scotians were aware of what an incredible opportunity this represented.
MR. MACLEOD: My only response to that would be - when you look at other things that you talked about, Better Care Sooner, the 811 and other things, they were programs that were being done and under the control of the Province of Nova Scotia and you invested money in them to make sure that people in Nova Scotia understood it.
The Ships Start Here campaign - the province had no control over that, had no real involvement in it, the decision was made by Ottawa. Yet we go out and spend that kind of money on it; $360,000-plus. It doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m in the minority here, and that wouldn’t be the first time. I heard that from my colleague to the left, no pun intended.
There are an awful lot of other Nova Scotians who are wondering the same thing that I'm wondering here today but we'll move on because apparently we're not going to get too far with this. So again, I just go back to your guidelines for when you're producing an ad, I'm still not happy with the answer, or maybe I don't understand the answer and that's been known to happen before.
To do an ad, there has to be certain criteria. You go through the criteria to decide whether you're going to do an ad. You get input from the departments and the different departments that may be affected by that but when you're actually doing an ad, how do you come about making that decision that this ad is going to do this, the best way to do it is by tweet or TV or radio? What are the guidelines - Twitter or whatever you call it, I don't think it's a good thing, but anyway, what are the guidelines?
MS. TAWEEL: Okay, I will try again and I apologize that I maybe missed your question.
MR. MACLEOD: It may not be you.
MS. TAWEEL: So each campaign is unique, so when we sit down and talk about a campaign, we consider who it is that we are trying to reach. So if our target, for example, is primarily youth under the age of 18, let's take that just as an example, it's primarily youth under the age of 18, we then look to research to guide our decision, in terms of where do those youth acquire their information? How do they talk to each other? What Web sites do they visit? What social media platforms do they frequent? Do they watch television anymore? If they watch it primarily on-line, how can we get to them in that manner?
We use all of that research to determine what makes the most sense, what is the correct combination to reach that audience to deliver upon the objectives for that particular campaign. That's the discussion where we would decide if we're going to use television, if we're going to strictly make it a Web-based campaign or perhaps only spots in theatres. Maybe that's where our target audience rests. That's how we decide which tools we're going to use.
The messaging, in terms of what message we need to deliver, flows throughout that process as well, in terms of what message do we need to deliver that will resonate with that particular audience? Because obviously the way that I am communicating this to someone who is, say, over 50 is going to be different than how I would communicate to someone who is 12. So it really is tailored. We try, as best as possible, to ensure that our messages will resonate with the audiences to whom we are trying to speak and we use a variety of research methods to make sure we've done that.
MR. MACLEOD: Just one quick question, would you find it helpful to have some outside person, like the Auditor General, decide which ads are appropriate?
MS. TAWEEL: I don't think that's necessary at all. CNS is a non-partisan organization. Any ads that are produced by CNS are non-partisan.
MR. MACLEOD: Would a formal policy in place be helpful to your department to decide which ads are appropriate?
MS. TAWEEL: CNS has communications policies and guidelines and we also have processes which I believe I've articulated here this morning. CNS, since its inception, we have had the same mandate. We are non-partisan in nature, we are no different than any other department and agency in government. We deliver the mandate of government and we ensure that Nova Scotians are getting the information they need and are aware of the programs and services that are of benefit to them and their family and that ultimately their tax dollars are paying for.
MR. MACLEOD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Your time has expired.
MS. BECKY KENT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all. It's a pleasure to hear from you, actually. We often see some of the staff in different various levels so it's nice to put a face to you now.
I want to touch on a couple of things that some of my colleagues have mentioned here. I think I want to start with Mr. Ramey because although he took some of my questions, I still think it's worth noting his reference, actually, to the perfect storm, it’s a clever analogy, quite frankly, of the multitude of various options for delivering messaging and communications and such. So I know that that has to be challenging and he referenced as well the various levels of skills, and you noted the various levels of skills and/or ability or desire, actually, to engage in the various forms that are available.
I kind of consider myself a perfect example of a middle of the road. I feel like I’ve got some effective usage and engagement in some of them, yet I know there are things out there, as my colleague said, tweeting and all of that. There are so many layers of things that our citizens could be engaging in and I know, again, I’m kind of in the middle of the range. So, quite frankly, it’s a comfort to know that we have the skills and the abilities in your department that are allowing us to get our message out. It’s an expertise that I can’t possibly have, I don’t want to have to carry around, and I know it’s comforting to know that you are.
I can tell you I absolutely am not an expert. I don’t profess to be an expert in communications, but one thing that our colleague from the Opposition was noting was a repetitive nature of some advertising, or branding, I think it was a colour scheme associated to some communications of the past, that for a number of many years we used the same over and over again. I don’t think this is rocket science, and I also don’t think that I’m off the mark but I would like your comment, it seems to me that the nature of advertising in and of itself is that you do change things up once in awhile. You do change the colours, you change your image; you change your delivery of slogans and brand names so you do get the attention of those who might otherwise become sort of numb to the images that are being projected year after year after year. I personally think that’s the right stage for delivery of a message from a province in the age of so many layers of multi-faceted communications. So I’m pleased to hear that.
One area that I would like a specific comment on though is around our cyberbullying challenges that we’re facing, not only in this province but worldwide. The Internet has made the world very, very small. Our government certainly is taking very specific steps to address this through tools with our students, our schools, our police services. We’re at the cusp, we’re at the beginning stages of bringing tools forward for Nova Scotians and we’re leading the industries and processes on so many levels. Maybe we’re going to be a leader in this, too, and I look forward to that but one of the tools that we used was the cyberbullying, the Department of Education survey. I’m wondering if you could outline for me what that entailed. Were these just television ads - just so I have a better understanding of it - and how did you ensure through that process that we were getting to the targeted area that we wanted and what was the uptake on that? Can you just give me some background on that?
MS. TAWEEL: Certainly. Communications Nova Scotia was involved in supporting the task force that was put in place to delve more deeply into the important social issue that you’ve just articulated. Our involvement included not just some of the public awareness campaigns but also support behind the scenes, if you will, to make sure that each and every meeting that that task force held, each and every intervention with the public was one that was ultimately respectful and was designed to draw out the necessary information that was needed in order for government to formulate a very fulsome policy objective, if you will.
CNS also played a role in developing the Web site, working with a variety of stakeholders to try to ensure that that Web site would speak to the audience that we were trying to target, which was quite a broad audience when you consider the mandate of the task force, certainly. So messaging and making sure that we were speaking to a wide variety of audiences was very important through that process. CNS, we’re very pleased to be involved in now working on the beginning stages of a public awareness campaign to help educate youth about the dangers, I guess, the perils of cyberbullying, and to help define cyberbullying more broadly in society so that students understand the impact that their actions can have on other students. We’re at the beginning stages of that campaign. We will launch that very soon, actually, and then look to roll out a further, deeper, student-led campaign in the Fall.
MS. KENT: Good. So is it safe to say that there is an open dialogue between your department and other departments? In particular, for instance, the cyberbullying - your expertise is communication. Your expertise is garnering information from the public so that you can then feed it to the decision-makers, through the departments for better programs, for better services. That you can take those ideas - knowing that the issue or the element that they’re dealing with for Nova Scotians - you can take those ideas to them, not necessarily having to wait for something to come forward with their idea. Is that fair?
MS. TAWEEL: Absolutely. I would suggest that not just with the Department of Education, but with all departments and agencies in government, each department and agency has its own sort of special brand of expertise, if you will, and its own areas of accountability. For us it’s communications and my expertise is in the area of communications. I don’t profess to be an educator, for example, so I need - as do my staff - the expertise of the very talented individuals that work in the Department of Education and elsewhere to help us ensure that what we develop makes sense and will ultimately reach our target audience. It’s through that combination of skills and expertise and commitment, that we do our best work.
The ideas that we come forward with might not make sense sometimes from an educator’s perspective, so I very much rely on and need that input from others to make sure that what we’re putting forward makes sense and will ultimately work and serve Nova Scotians well.
MS. KENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I offer the floor to Mr. Epstein.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Epstein.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Thank you very much. I noticed in your introductory remarks that you referred to CNS as having a legislated responsibility. I take it you’re referring to the Communications and Information Act? That’s the Statute.
MS. TAWEEL: Yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: I was having a look at it and it seems to me it hasn’t been revised - so far as I can tell - since perhaps it was first passed in 1990 or 1992. I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to consider the Act with a view to whether it needs any updating. Is that something that has come up inside your department?
MS. TAWEEL: I would suggest that it is something that we probably should look at, especially given the conversation that we’ve had here this morning about emerging new technologies, new media. I mean, I believe ultimately the mandate of Communications Nova Scotia is solid and has stood the test of time and I would not advocate for any change in that regard and our policies and procedures certainly have evolved over time. The Act - the ultimate Act itself - has not been updated, you’re quite correct, in quite some time.
MR. EPSTEIN: There is a catch-all phrase when it refers - after listing “ . . . press releases, films, still photographs, television or radio presentations, advertising, graphic arts, printing or other creative forms . . .” It seems to be a catch-all, which is fine, but overall the Statute might need a little rethink, I would suggest.
I also wondered about the regulations under the Statute because they only seem to deal with fees and yet in some of your comments this morning, you referred to guidelines that you have for yourselves and for others that you deal with as to, for example, the content of tweets and so on. I wondered if these might be appropriate for regulation rather than purely as internal policy. Have you had the chance to think about that or discuss it?
MS. TAWEEL: I have not, no. Some elements might make sense for regulations. Others might not necessarily lend themselves as well to regulations, given the fluidity with which they are changing. But it is certainly something worth considering and exploring.
MR. EPSTEIN: I’m certainly not trying to dictate a result. I was just wanting to invite the conversation perhaps to start in that respect.
Can I move to another point? Most of the discussion so far this morning has been about external communication - that is communication emanating from the government to the public. I wondered if you could give us an additional dimension - I’m wondering about communication inside the government. In particular, I wondered about the activities of Communications Nova Scotia in letting ministers and the civil service know about what the news is that is happening outside, including things like discussion on Twitter or discussion on Facebook or of the Web sites of organizations that might be particularly concerned about their departmental activities.
I know for certain that you monitor the daily printed press and the weekly ones around the province and I know that you monitor radio and television. Can you just tell us about that and also the extent to which you monitor things like Facebook and Twitter and report on them to government?
MS. TAWEEL: Certainly. Good communications is always a two-way process so we wouldn't be doing our jobs well if we weren't always mindful of what's being said in the environment around us, certainly. So yes, we do take a very active role in ensuring that ministers, deputy ministers, in fact all folks within departments, are fully aware of what's going on, as it relates to their particular area of expertise or the area over which they have authority.
I think this is where our network of having communications professionals embedded out in departments really supports our work in that regard. So we do formally monitor all of the social media platforms that you have referenced. We monitor traditional media outlets as well and obviously there is very, sort of rich information that can be gleaned every day from all of those sources that sort of helped to shape the communications messages that we would then be sharing with Nova Scotians.
If there's misinformation, we move quickly to try to correct it, again in the best interests of Nova Scotians. More importantly, it is our philosophy, our belief, that people need information in order to do their jobs well.
The other element that we monitor would be what sort of key stakeholders are thinking about particular issues, what their perspectives are. Our communications teams that exist reside out in departments, talk regularly with stakeholders, they have networks, they support each other. If there is a particular stakeholder who is a stakeholder who crosses multiple departments, that network of communication professionals talks with each other regularly. They, in turn, then feed information through the department to ensure that everyone, as best as possible, given the complexities and how quickly the day can sometimes pass, shares information within the department and everyone is operating sort of from the same basis of information.
I believe someone here said earlier that we spend some of our time in reactive mode and that is certainly true, that is the nature of the business. It is my hope that with solid practices and processes in place, we can start to move a little more toward the proactive side of communications and not need to be quite so reactive. That comes from consistent, clear messaging, it comes from correcting misinformation. Ensuring that that is not allowed to continue to permeate through or to continue to change, as it circulates broadly and to make sure that anyone who needs the information, has it and is in a position to ensure that they are operating at the same level as everyone else within a given organization.
MR. EPSTEIN: You mentioned key stakeholders and monitoring what they might have to say and having some communication with them. Are there guidelines as to when the point of entry, in terms of communication with a department by a stakeholder, is the communications staff rather than either political staff or civil servants? When the communications that then flowed from the department will come either from the communications or from the departmental staff or the political staff - are there guidelines around any of that?
MS. TAWEEL: No, not to my knowledge, there are no guidelines. I would suggest that it is unique, on a department-by-department basis. Some departments have very deep and longstanding relationships with certain key stakeholders so the way that relationship may have evolved is that it may be less formal, perhaps, than with other departments.
It really does vary, depending on the issue, the stakeholder and the nature of the department.
MR. EPSTEIN: I'm sure it does. Thank you for that. I think if we still have time . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Time has expired, thank you very much.
Would you like to make a few wrap-up comments briefly?
MS. TAWEEL: I would, thank you very much. So, again, thank you very much for the opportunity today to discuss the work of Communications Nova Scotia. I do welcome and thank you for your questions, opinions and insights. We strongly believe - as I hope I’ve demonstrated today - in continuous improvement and we do seek to apply all that we learn. Without communication, in my opinion, effective government is not possible. Communication is the foundation of ideas, discussion, tolerance and accountability.
Nova Scotians need to know about the government programs and services available to them to help their families, communities and businesses in order to take full advantage of them. We all agree this work has to be done in the most economical results-oriented fashion possible. CNS embraces the most effective and cost-efficient practices of today. We’ve cut costs significantly in a number of key areas. We’ve had success in delivering critical information about what the government is doing and why. We have shared important information on programs and services that help people. We’ve provided critical safety information when it mattered most. We’ve continued to change how we work as new and best practices and opportunities emerge, and we have embraced new tools and technologies to hold two-way conversations with Nova Scotians.
Most importantly, we have listened to what Nova Scotians have to say. Their feedback is the basis of what we do and it guides our work. I am proud of the people who work each and every day at Communications Nova Scotia. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much and thank you for coming today. There was a request by some members. I’ll just go briefly through it and the clerk will send you a letter in this regard.
Mr. MacLeod asked who was on the ships table and it was also asked by Mr. MacLeod about contributions, dollar amounts from others outside of the Province of Nova Scotia to the Ships Start Here program that would be there. Mr. Ramey asked for the statistics on computers in the province and it was indicated that you could provide that. Mr. Younger asked that you provide written priorities regarding guidelines - for example, Twitter, he talked about that. Mr. Younger also asked for the written policy on partisan or political type advertising - as related to your department, of course.
Again, I would like to thank you very much for coming. It was very informative and indeed, I believe, maybe the first time you were here. It was probably quite stressful getting ready for it, but you did a wonderful job.
We just have a small amount of committee business. I sent a notice out or asked the clerk to send a notice out to reschedule the meeting for June 13th as a result of a caucus meeting that our caucus is going to have. Are there any objections to rescheduling that to September? Okay, that’s agreed.
Our next meeting will be Wednesday, May 16th, and it will be Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Heating Assistance Rebate Program.
Unless there’s any other business, a motion to adjourn would be in order.
MR. EPSTEIN: So moved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: So moved by Mr. Epstein.
We stand adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:58 a.m.]