a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Possible successor to PM has emerged

This might be a surprise to a lot of people, but there is one Tory in Ottawa who appears to be rising in popularity: Stockwell Day. Yes the same Stockwell Day who ran such a disastrous campaign in the 2000 election as the leader of the old Alliance party.

Day, who was highly regarded as finance minister in Alberta, has handled three portfolios in the Harper government without controversy or any noticeable mistakes as a minister. Hence, the promotion in the latest cabinet shuffle to President of the Treasury Board.

It is widely expected that Day will be the government's lead minister in preparing the public for the budget cuts that will be necessary to cut the federal deficit. And anyone who has seen Day give a speech knows why. He may be the best communicator in the cabinet.

In addition, he has very polished people skills. Next to the prime minister, he must look like Mr. Sunshine, which is probably why he is being praised by the two major civil service unions as a breath of fresh air in Ottawa's rigid class system.

Day, who likes to send folksy e-mails to departmental staff, did something quite unheard of in Ottawa after taking over as Treasury Board president. He called the heads of both unions to introduce himself and suggest getting together.

It will be interesting to see if the system will close in on him since he is very obviously an outsider. Another question is how long he can be a rising star in a government in which there is only one marquis player.

Two years back another Albertan minister, Jim Prentice, was thought to be Stephen Harper's successor before he got shunted from the high-profile Industry Canada portfolio to Environment, which in this government is about as good a job as being general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

And of course, there is also the question of whether Day is up to being a party leader after striking out once already. Recent political history is littered with perfectly good ministers who couldn't quite cut it as party leader.
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The Superbowl -- at least the football portion -- may be over. But discussion of the ads continues.

One of those ads, placed by the social conservative group Focus on the Family has the distinction of being talked about before and after the Superbowl. This ad, featuring Heinzman Trophy winner Tim Lebow and his mother, didn't contain the strident anti-abortion message many were expecting. Instead, the message -- that abortion is big mistake -- was very subtle in contrast to the Focus on the Family website.

Because of this subtlety, the ad will probably usher in a new era of politically-motivated advertising. That raises questions. What happens when a television network decides the ad from one side of an issue is too strident while a spot from the other side is within broadcast standards of good taste?

What happens to democratic debate and thought when one side of an issue has the money for advertising its ideas like a consumer product while the other doesn't?

Advocacy advertising may not be new. But up until this time it has not been prime time fare. Advocacy advertising at prime time has critical implications for democracy.

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