Government Public Relations in Canada and the United States

Mordecai Lee, Fraser Likely, and Jean Valin

Abstract Public relations in Canadian and American public administration evolved in parallel. But the two countries have cultural, political, economic and legal differences. The chapter explores how government communication developed in the national governments of the two countries and what is unique about this sectoral practice on the two sides of North America’s 49th parallel. The focus is on the permanent government (fairly or unfairly called the bureaucracy), namely external communications conducted by civil servants who don’t serve at the pleasure of political appointees and don’t change based on election results. They use public relations to further their agencies’ legal missions as set by elected officials. Generally, American public administrators have come to view their proper roles and responsibilities more narrowly than their Canadian counterparts.

M. Lee (H)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Suite 6000, 161 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53203-2602, USA e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

F. Likely

Likely Communication Strategies, 200-1775 Courtwood Crescent,

Ottawa, ON K2A 2KA, Canada

J. Valin

Valin Strategic Communications, 19 Mike Road, Chelsea, QC J9B 1C6, Canada

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017 65

T. Watson (ed.), North American Perspectives on the Development of Public Relations, National Perspectives on the Development of Public Relations, DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95044-7_6

Keywords Bureaucracy, civil service/servants • Federal government (US and Canada) • Government • Public management • Public sector

Public relations practice in Canada and US public administration evolved in similar ways. There are, though, important differences between these two countries: culturally, politically, economically, legally, and the manner in which activism is perceived. This chapter explores how government communication and public relations came to be structured in the two national governments, how it developed, and what is unique about the history of this sectoral practice on the two sides of North America’s 49th parallel.

Much of the attention of the popular and academic literature on the history of public sector PR has focused on political public relations, which is conducted by candidates in election campaigns and subsequently in office. This historical review focuses on the permanent government (often called the bureaucracy), namely external communications conducted by civil servants who don’t serve at the pleasure of political appointees and don’t change based on election results. Their focus is on use of PR for the furtherance of their agencies’ missions as set by elected institutions.

 
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