Making "Pictures in Our Heads": Government Advertising in Canada

By Jonathan W. Rose | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
The Canadian Unity Information
Office: Crisis Advertising
to Canadians

During Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s tenure, the federal government in Canada developed an institution whose sole purpose was to publicize and promote Canadian federalism through advertising and other forms of official propaganda. The publicity generated by the Canadian Unity Information Office (CUIO) would dwarf all prior federal government experiments in communication management and remains one of the federal government’s most significant advertising ventures. Born from the ashes of Information Canada, the CUIO was involved in several significant campaigns including the Quebec referendum and National Energy Program, both of 1980, and the patriation of the constitution in 1982. All of these campaigns differed from the work of Information Canada in that they provide us with examples of government advertising in a significant national crisis and are examples of advertising on controversial issues. This chapter explores how the federal government, through the CUIO, advertises during periods of national crisis. The government advertising of the 1980 Quebec referendum also foreshadows the kind of information management that would be used in subsequent constitutional crises such as the 1987 Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

The period from 1977 to the patriation in 1982 saw an intense use of advertising on issues that had several unique components. The CUIO’s advertising efforts differed from Information Canada and the advertising during each of the world wars because of the degree of controversy surrounding the initiative being advertised. This was seen both in the partisan sense of the discussion of the issue in Parliament as well as within the population as a whole. Second, it was the federal government’s first fullscale mass media advertising campaign to use television, radio, and print to its full advantage. The campaign was supported by the use of public

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