The government of Canada is getting the gears online over its decision to rebrand the Facebook pages of several key ministries.
Most egregious, it seems, the Environment Canada Facebook page was renamed last week “Conserve, Restore, Connect with Nature.”
The page now incorporates Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Reaction on the social media site has not been good.
“This is so ridiculous!” Facebook user Jackie Chow wrote on the page.
“Perhaps we should rename Environment Canada, and call it e.g. ‘Ministry for the Exploitation and Destruction of the Environment.’”
“Wow. Talk about deception,” wrote Jim Ross. “A government agency that does little to conserve or restore the environment changes their Facebook page to gloss over their record on the environment.”
One user asked if the Environment Canada page had been hacked.
“Not hacked, hijacked by the PMO,” Stephen Garlick replied.
“Rebranding… hmmm…. before an election?!?! A little suspect…,” wrote Mike Moss.
Environment Canada spokesman Mark Johnson says the Facebook name change is part of a broader federal government “web renewal initiative” that is reorganizing government information into themes, rather than ministries.
“The goal of the Web Renewal Initiative is to consolidate 1,500 departmental websites into one website by Dec. 31, 2016,” Johnson says in a statement to Yahoo Canada News.
The social media makeovers are the latest stage of the federal government decision to centralize its online presence on the website Canada.ca, which launched in December 2013.
“Environment Canada is a theme-lead department, responsible for the Environment and Natural Resources theme on Canada.ca,” Johnson says.
“Environment Canada will continue to publish departmental content on its Facebook page; however, it will be working more closely with other Government of Canada Environment and Natural Resources theme partners, such the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to include additional content on its Facebook page.”
Documents from the Treasury Board Secretariat say the web renewal initiative will feature 15 such themes “to make it easier for Canadians to find information.”
Other Facebook page changes have largely gone unnoticed.
Public Safety’s page is now “Get Cyber Safe” and Health Canada has three pages: Healthy Canadians, Healthy First Nations and Inuit and DrugsNot4Me.
The public comments on these pages are relatively vitriol-free.
But the Conservative government has a somewhat strained relationship with the kind of people who might like the Environment Canada page.
NDP environment critic Megan Leslie says removing the word “environment” from the Environment Canada Facebook page is a “sad symbol of how the Conservatives have systematically dismantled environmental protections in Canada.”
“It seems the Conservatives may be trying to give their environmental reputation a facelift, but a branding consultant won’t reverse the serious harm they’ve done through cuts to science, inaction on climate change and gutting of environmental laws,” she tells Yahoo Canada News.
Government spokeswoman Julia Sullivan says the initiative is easier for users and more efficient. And it will not be limited to Facebook.
“Departmental social media presence is also moving towards the thematic approach which includes Facebook,” says Sullivan, spokeswoman for Employment and Social Development Canada.
Satyamoorthy Kabilan, director of strategic foresight for the Conference Board of Canada, says the general idea to pull all the information on one subject together, regardless of department, is a good one.
The scattering of information on different websites, among different departments, is a common complaint from the public.
“Being able to grab all that information centrally is quite useful but does that work on Facebook, which is not directly linked and searchable through various government websites? I’m not entirely certain,” he tells Yahoo Canada News.