April 3, 2014 2:04 pm
Updated: April 3, 2014 8:34 pm

Documents show Alberta government’s communications staff cost $23.1M

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EDMONTON – Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) show the Alberta government employs 214 full-time communications staff at a cost of $23.1 million this year.

The CTF asked for information regarding the number of communications staff broken down by ministry and the total cost within each ministry. (Read the document, in full, below).

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The documents reveal that the province employs 187 communications staff within the ministries, and 27 in the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB) Central Office.

The 2013-2014 budget for the salaries and benefits of all full-time communications staff within the ministries is $19.9 million. For PAB Central Office staff, that number is $3.3 million.

“Government needs well-paid and qualified communications staff do its job, but Alberta’s government has gone a little overboard,” said CTF Alberta Director Derek Fildebrandt.

“When the average communications staffer costs $107,844 and we’ve got 11 of them per minister, we have a problem.”

A spokesperson for the PAB says the number of people employed full-time by the Bureau is closer to 97, and the remaining positions include designers, writers, layout artists, and graphic designers, for example.

Those staff, says the PAB spokesperson, work on things like government websites and printed products.

“The 214 of Alberta’s approximately 27,000 public servants defined here as ‘Communications’ staff deliver a vital role in getting Albertans the information they want and need, promptly, efficiently and effectively,” said David Sands of the PAB in an email statement to Global News.

“We have writers, designers, web staff, technicians and subject matter specialists working on direct responses to inquiries, on publications, bulletins, program information, consumer alerts, public consultations,  stakeholder outreach and so on. The public – and media – expect prompt, complete responses and access to information.”

According to the documents, the ministry with the largest communications staff is Human Services, which employs 25 individuals full-time, including one communications director, two assistant directors, three public affairs officers, five managers, one press secretary and thirteen other positions.

The PAB Central Office employs 27 staff members, including one senior official, three executive managers, three senior managers, and eight managers.

“The Public Affairs Bureau provides core staffing for the communications branches in each department,” explained FOIP Coordinator Karen Lindgren, in her response to CTF.

“Departments have separate communications budgets to provide administrative and other support for their communication branches. Those budgets may also include funding for things like internal communications, correspondence units, or website and internet support. It’s up to each ministry to determine how their budgets are structured.”

The CTF says the numbers don’t include communication services contracted out by government to private firms and consultants.

Government of Alberta’s communications staff

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