08:30 GMT20 April 2021
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    A website called Blacklock’s Reporter revealed on Thursday that Canada’s Department of Health wants to hire celebrities and digital influencers “to say nice things” about its work on social media. According to Canadian independent journalist Leigh Stewart, this spin operation shows that the Liberal government lacks honesty and transparency.

    Sputnik: The news about the government’s online endorsement campaign appeared after several controversial stories involving Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, some of them pandemic-related, surfaced online. What do you think about it as a journalist, and as a taxpayer?

    Leigh Stewart: It doesn’t surprise me that the government would be willing to pay people to give them praise, or promote what they are dishing out. It’s a form of propaganda. It reminds me what they did in 2019: paid influencers to promote the election (Trudeau’s election) until they scrapped it when people realised the social media influencers that were chosen had a Trudeau bias. We never did get that money back.

    Sputnik: According to another news outlet – The Post Millennial, the influencers will not be required to tell their audience that the Trudeau government will be paying them – something which is illegal, according to the Canadian government’s own website. It’s also unclear how much money the bloggers will be receiving. Do you think Canadians deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent on celebrity endorsements?

    Leigh Stewart: The government has never been transparent. If this current government was honest, they wouldn’t need to pay celebrities to praise them, that would come naturally. Canadians should definitely know where their tax dollars are going, it’s a mockery to the hard working Canadians to not be informed, personally I think it equates to theft.

    Sputnik: It’s likely that a lot of  that “positive content” about the government will be COVID-related. Do you think the handling of pandemic-related issues by the Department of Health during the past year has been adequate and effective?

    Leigh Stewart: Health Canada needs all the help they can get, seeking praise for their decisions surrounding the coronavirus. Nothing they have put in place, whether it be lockdowns, wearing masks, has worked. We are in the same place we were a year ago and not much has changed. I think the lockdowns are doing more harm than good, with the help of big tech and corporations, especially for small business. Anyone who speaks out against the current government and their solutions backed with zero evidence is silenced, or presented with a summons to court. I think their goal is to abolish the middle class. Get a majority of people on government assistance (Canada has the highest unemployment in the G7) and inflate prices so eventually, people cannot afford to live.

    ​Canadians don’t need a babysitter to tell them what to do, last time I checked we had a freedom of choice. If you don’t want to wear a mask, go ahead. If you want to keep your small business open, go ahead. There should be absolutely nothing wrong with people making the choices that they feel are best for them.

    Sputnik: Ontario premier Doug Ford said that the authorities will be watching the daily case numbers, as the COVID infection rate has increased in your province.  All of that may sound as if the authorities are preparing for another lockdown, while the previous one has not been fully lifted. Do you think people would readily accept the new restrictions?

    Leigh Stewart: I think a lot of people are getting fed up. In the beginning it was only 15 days to flatten the curve and here we are, a year later, only now the narrative has changed. It’s now about waiting for a vaccine. Which health officials say you will still have to wear a mask, even if you receive one. The Premier of Ontario Doug Ford is relying on medical health professionals to tell him what to do, when I’m not convinced they actually do know what they are doing. Locking down again hurts small business and even Ford has admitted that himself.

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