NEWS4 June 2009

Harper government doesn’t ‘fully appreciate value’ of research

Government North America

CANADA— A change in political leadership in Canada is the only way to stop the current round of government cuts to public opinion research spend, according to the new president of the country’s Marketing Research & Intelligence Association (MRIA).

David Stark told Research that those in power do not “fully appreciate the value and role of public opinion research” and that the country will “need a change in leadership before we see an increase in spending to the level where it was”.

In the 2007/08 financial year, the government’s public opinion research spending was slashed by 21%, in line with plans to trim C$10m off the research bill by 2008/09.

Stark, who is also vice president of public affairs at TNS Canadian Facts, said that it is not just research agencies that have been affected by the decline in spending. “When we speak to public sector clients,” he said, “they are frustrated because they know the benefits, they know the importance, but they are under ministerial orders to rein in spending on research.”

He believes the government’s stance on research spend is influenced by the fallout from the previous administration, when public funds were misappropriated. Stark said: “We had a sponsorship scandal a few years ago where advertising agencies, primarily in Quebec, were receiving government money to spend on promoting Canada and the Canadian logo at events, but at the same time there were some false invoices created and laws were broken. It became a huge scandal and the result is, I think, that the government today is a little more wary about where public money is being spent within advertising and the broader marketing and opinion research sector.”

The current government may not be willing to spend on research, but Stark is convinced that it can still do the industry a good turn – by cracking down on ‘sugging’ (selling under the guise of research). He said one of his main objectives at the MRIA is to inform the public about the practice and how they can report it to the relevant authorities, and to let them know that legitimate researchers will never try to sell them something.

A recent survey by the MRIA found that 40% of 2,000 people interviewed had been contacted by suggers over the past year. Stark said that laws that could tackle the problem are not enforced enough, and he urged the Canadian and US governments to cooperate and crack down on suggers who make cross-border calls.

1 Comment

11 years ago

Right on, Mr. Stark. I also believe that any other party leader in Canada would be more aware of the benefits of research than Mr. Harper appears to be. But then Mr. Harper already knows everything, so why would he bother; what would happen if the survey found out that he was wrong? Linda Bissinger Toronto, Canada

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