Immigration minister Jason Kenney is being accused of blurring the fine-line between government and political partisanship.
According to documents obtained by the Canadian Press, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) spent almost $750,000 — over the past three years — to monitor ethnic media.
Disturbingly, the taxpayer funded research included "assessments of election campaign events and 'perceptions' of minister Jason Kenney."
"The more than 7,000 pages of documents reveal the media monitoring went well beyond public policy issues related to citizenship and immigration.
"A series of interviews and appearances by minister Kenney and his representatives were strong contributors to the upswing in the ministerial image," says a report from May 5, 2010, under a pie graph titled "Minister Overall Perception."
Daily 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."
According to CP, Jason Kenney's spokesperson said that their office did not request the monitoring. CIC officials said that the expense was part of a "government communications policy" and not related to the 2011 election.
But the opposition parties don't see it that way.
"It's outrageous that Minister Kenney would spend this much," NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims told Yahoo! Canada News.
" A lot of people who are really vain spend time Googling themselves. Jason Kenney is using our tax dollars to have this done for him," she said.
"This is the typical Conservative party game. It's all about appearances and not about actual action to improve peoples' lives and get them back to work. Instead of worrying about what people are saying about him, the Minister should be more concerned about how what he's doing is affecting their lives."
There's little argument that Kenney has been one of the most effective immigration ministers in a generation.
He also deserves credit for delivering the ethnic vote to the Tories in the 2011 election with his cross-country travels wooing immigrant communities over the past several years.
But those two things — governance and campaigning — have to be two mutually exclusive acts.
On the surface, it appears that CIC was spending government money for Conservative party business.
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And, if that's the case, Jason Kenney and CIC have some serious explaining to do.