a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More strange messages from Ottawa

For a city obsessed with message control, it is truly amazing how many muddled messages come out of Ottawa. There have been some outstanding examples in the past week or so.

Let's start with the Liberals for a change.

For months, the Liberals have been talking about their great policy renewal conference, which will be held this weekend in Montreal.

This is supposed to be a seminal session for policies to be implemented when the voters come to their senses and put a Liberal back in 24 Sussex Drive.

In other words, it is supposed to be a modern version of the 1960 Liberal thinkfest at Kingston that resulted in a Canadian flag, national healthcare and the Canadian Pension Plan, or a repeat of the 1992 Aylmer, QC., conference that resulted in the famous Red Book of promises that put Jean Chretien in power the following year.

Late last week, the party brain trust announced Liberal MPs and Senators are not invited to the 2010 conference because the event is supposed to be non-partisan. That's right, a conference to ponder policies and platforms that will put the Grits back in power is supposed to be non-partisan with the absence of Grits who are in Parliament already.

The decision was probably well intentioned -- most dumb ideas usually are -- but what kind of message does that send? If the Liberals really think they can regain power by excluding those who must answer to the voter, perhaps they are demonstrating that they need more time on the Opposition benches.

It's the dumbest idea since somebody decided the Conservatives could remain free of corruption if lobbyists were told to stay the hell away from annual Christmas party. Maybe that person is now working for the Liberals.

As for convoluted messages by the governing party, there have been quite a few since the ill-fated (and quite stupid) bid to reword the national anthem.

First the government Tories said their much ballyhooed G8 initiative on mothers and childcare would no include family planning. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the program is about preserving life.

Then International Development Minister Bev Oda said family planning was in the program without explaining the reason behind the flip-flop.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the so-called 10 per centers -- partisan circulars MPs can send at taxpayer expense to other ridings in amounts equaling 10 per cent of their own constituencies -- should be banned. But his own caucus voted against getting rid of them.

Harper also says Helena Guergis, the Status of Women minister, will stay in cabinet. But a growing number of Tory MPs are telling the media of an internal push to get rid of her.

In the Tories' case, the confusion is probably a direct result of a government obsessed with managing (or trying to manage) the Afghan detainee crisis at the expense of everything else. This is how scandal eats away at a government.

Strange messages all, but the main message to the voters likely is that the two main parties are where they deserve to be in the polls -- deadlocked with no signs of growing much support.


A few weeks ago, I declared this blog a Tiger-free zone. But the two televised interviews Tiger Woods gave on the Golf Channel and ESPN over the weekend deserve a mention out of fairness.

The haughtiness Tiger showed in that one-way press conference a few weeks ago was gone. In the the weekend interviews, Tiger was quite clearly sincere, contrite and forthcoming.

He may not have saved some of the sponsors he lost. But had he done those interviews in the beginning of his ordeal he likely would have saved himself a lot of grief.

Now he should be allowed to rebuild his life.

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