OTTAWA - The department of Citizenship and Immigration spent almost $750,000 monitoring ethnic media over the past three years including assessments of election campaign events and "perceptions" of Minister Jason Kenney.
According to documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information law, taxpayers paid for daily reports that were supposed to monitor "key words and issues related to the department's mandate."
But the more than 7,000 pages of documents reveal the media monitoring went well beyond public policy issues related to citizenship and immigration.
In the spring of 2010 with the Conservative minority government under threat of an election, a weekly summary included pie charts and commentary on the "overall perception" of Minister Kenney in ethnic media.
The monitoring continued during the 2011 election period and included reports — graded from "very positive" to "very negative" — on campaign events by Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and their political opponents.
Robert Shepherd, a Carleton University expert in public governance and ethics, says the Harper government has spent a great deal of public money "understanding where the votes are" — a practice that falls into an ethical grey area.