01/18/2015 11:04 EST | Updated 03/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Canada Revenue Agency Eyeing Web Page To Counter Negative Coverage


OTTAWA - The Canada Revenue Agency wants to set the record straight when journalists fail to include its upbeat take in their stories.

A new document shows the CRA is considering a special web page to post rebuttals to media coverage it doesn't like. The web page would also be a place where the agency could direct journalists to a canned response if it gets flooded with calls on a hot topic.

Officials pitched the idea to CRA commissioner Andrew Treusch in an August 2014 memo.

"The purpose of this briefing note is to follow up on a discussion with your office of actions that might be taken to get our positive messaging out in instances where media coverage does not reflect the content we have provided," it says.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the memo under the Access to Information Act.

The document weighed the pros and cons of the idea. One the one hand, the agency saw the advantage of putting out facts and data, "both in a broad sense and in instances where we are encountering difficulties in generating media pickup of this information and balanced coverage."

On the other hand, the CRA wants to avoid scooping journalists by posting responses to their questions on its website before their stories are published or broadcast.

"Constructive relationships with the media are important to the CRA's compliance communications goals, as the CRA relies on the media to convey information for taxpayers throughout the year, particularly during filing season," the memo says.

"We also want to avoid outcomes that incur significant costs for the agency — for example, as a result of the need for translation."

In the end, agency officials recommended going ahead with the plan.

"(Public affairs branch) proposes the creation of a new section in the newsroom on the CRA website where the agency could post relevant, approved material in instances where a journalist has written an article without reflecting the CRA's input or when the agency is responding to numerous media requests on a significant subject."

Officials told Treusch that if he approved of it, the new section of the website could be up and running by the end of September. The commissioner signed off on the idea on Aug. 8.

In the comments section, he told staff to brief the officials in the office of National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay and to ask them if they'd like a similar memo.

The new section had not appeared on the agency's website as of Sunday.

CRA spokeswoman Jennifer McCabe said the idea is "still under consideration."

"The CRA puts a lot of time into the development of comprehensive responses to individual media inquiries, and is always seeking new ways to provide timely, relevant and factual information to all media and to Canadians," she wrote in an email.

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