Tuesday, February 21, 2006

HEADS ROLL IN OTTAWA

William Stairs is out as director of communications for Stephen Harper, all because of the David Emerson flap and the failures of the spinmeisters to put the fire out. But then again, what do you expect from communications. There's only so much they can do; besides, it's not their fault the fire started. That was the PMO's fault for urging Emerson to switch in the first place! So the communications people get the blame and the knife. Life is not fair.

If it's the PMO that makes a hash of things to begin with, by going against your own messaging by poaching opposition parties, you can't expect the communications team to be able to do very much to bail you out. By poaching Emerson to begin with and hosing the people who expected Emerson to serve under the Liberal banner, the Harper gang made short work of their own line of bull about providing more accountable government to the people, especially after they yelled and screamed about the poachings last year. The essential consistency of their message was lost. There's not much the communications team can do to paper this problem over in a short period of time.

I get the impression some of these leaders, especially in the business world, feel they can get away with doing whatever they want, and that if they get bad press the PR team is entirely to blame for it. Well, the PR team could use a little help from on high sometimes.

I had said before that the communications had to be stronger from the PMO over this Emerson business; they could have made a stronger case that this poaching of Emerson was done for principled reasons to strengthen representation in the cities, to ensure that Vancouver and British Columbia had a voice in cabinet. Anyway, seems Stairs tried to tell the folks in charge that this was a debacle that needed to be addressed, but Harper and everyone went into hiding. Wrong move. They needed to take the heat and go into the kitchen, and face the controversy head on with their own line of bull about how all this was principled. But they didn't do it.

Courtesy of the Globe and Mail:

The sources said Mr. Stairs departed after arguing 10 days ago that the PMO and the Prime Minister needed to deal more forcefully with the Emerson problem. The Prime Minister had kept mostly silent on the difficulties surrounding Mr. Emerson despite the urgings of Mr. Stairs and a number of other individuals within the government.

Anyway, let this be a lesson to the Harper gang. It makes it a lot easier on the communications team if you actually do things that are true to your principles. Like not poaching opposition parties! If you run a campaign saying you're going to do better than the incumbent government and do things differently, well, then, do it! Then you're bound to get good press- or better press than the crummy clippings you're getting right now. This sort of thing is exactly what got Paul Martin in trouble: he said one line of bull and then didn't do it. He was going to end the Democratic Deficit and clean up the mess left by Chretien and well, he didn't. Now look where he is today, him with all his hot-air PR help. On the street.

Now this new government is turning around and seemingly doing nothing about the Democratic Deficit either. You can't blame the PR team if the government says it's going to improve things and then doesn't, and then ignores all your crisis-management good advice.

So much for changing things in Ottawa. We are the @#$% Liberals.

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