a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A budget speech without numbers

Mario Cuomo once advised politicians to campaign in poetry, govern in prose.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has given himself an exception from that advice in this year's budget speech. Or was the budget just another stop on the campaign circuit while the Tories continue to seek their elusive majority?

Budget Lite is probably the best way to describe the speech Flaherty gave in the Commons last week. It appears to be number-free, which is odd considering it was after all a speech about how the taxpayers' money is to be spent.

Perhaps it was because the minister tables the world's first fully tweetable budget. Or perhaps it was because the government feels it simply doesn't have the political capital to talk hard numbers with the voters.

The Tories' Throne Speech may have been an hour plus in length. But the budget speech was barely 20 minutes of one-sentence paragraphs, or should that be factoids.

In fact, most of the sentences could easily have been tweeted within the 160-character limit.

So if the Budget Speech could easily have been mistaken for a stump speech to the Whitby Rotary Club, how much credibility can the 2010 fiscal plan have with financial markets and Canadians as a whole?


DOST TO DUST: Just as I was finishing this blog entry about rewording O Canada along came the announcement from the Prime Minister's Office that our national anthem was just fine the way it is.

Apparently, voters were angered by the suggestion that a key phrase in the lyrics -- "In all they sons command" -- might be replaced with the awkward "Thou does in us command", to make the anthem gender-neutral. So the government beat a hasty retreat from part of their own Throne Speech.

Dost may be toast. But there is still an issue that should concern Canadians.

The Tories are not the first government to try to use an emotional motherhood issue to distract public attention away from its problems. And they won't be the last.

As long as the media can be counted on to go for the shiny thing, as a fish does, there will be fake issues to distract voters.

Had the government not come to its senses on Friday, the media would still be dining out on this fake issue. Perhaps the parliamentary press gallery should be taking a critical look at the way media cover politics.

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