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Health minister's Twitter account highlights cost of government tweeting

Health minister's Twitter account highlights cost of government tweeting
From CBC - January 19, 2018

A Twitter account created for Canada's health minister last summer is costing taxpayers more than $100,000 a year in salaries and overtime for the bureaucrats who run it.

The account was launched Aug. 18and so far has issued about 250 tweets, or about 50 a month in English on @CDNMinHealth and in Frenchon @MinSanteCAN.

Those tweets require the equivalent of 1.5 employees dedicated to the task, with after-hours and weekend work costing about $6,500 in overtime so far.

"Resources within the Health portfolio will plan, write, translate, post content and visuals, evaluate, monitor and propose responses to activity on the official account where appropriate," says an internal memo for the minister last summer.

"Health Canada's social media team will oversee all account co-ordination activities and provide strategic advice on how to increase followers and reach, as required. They will work collaboratively with existing resources across the Health portfolio to help develop and deliver content for the official Twitter account."

CBC News obtained the Aug. 15 memo under the Access to Information Act, with other information supplied by the department.

The account was set up under then-health minister Jane Philpott, but soon operated under Petitpas Taylor, shuffled into the portfolio on Aug. 28, 2017.

Like many ministers, Petitpas Taylor has a personal Twitter account as well, with more than 3,300 tweets and almost 6,000 followers twice as many as her official ministerial account.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's personal account @JustinTrudeau is also far more popular than his official prime minister account, @CanadianPM. Similarly, U.S. President Donald Trump's personal Twitter account, the heavily used @realDonaldTrump, is separate from his much-less used official account as president, @POTUS.

Setting up an account on Twitter is free, but running it for a Canadian cabinet minister is another matter.

'Low-cost option'

"In the end, the department chose a low-cost option where the account is managed within existing resources," spokesperson Sindy Souffront said in an email.

'The account is managed within existing resources.' SindySouffront, Health Canada

"The department expends the equivalent of 1.5 employees to develop and post content to the account. The work is done by existing staff, and within regular business hours as much as possible; however there are instances where the work is done outside regular business hours "

2 weeks to plan a tweet

12-step vetting process

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