a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Second-rate scandal shows Tories losing control of narrative

As scandals go, the Helena Guergis affair is pretty second rate. It pales against the sponsorship scandal of the Liberals -- at least so far -- and hardly rates among the ongoing peccadilloes of the Mulroney government.

But the current government should be concerned just the same. As we have seen time and time again, what matters on Parliament Hill is not the actual transgression but how the government deals with it.

We don't know why the Prime Minister has called in the RCMP to investigate allegations by a "third party" into the former minister's conduct because the government claims neither it nor the RCMP can say.

(Strangely the RCMP had no problem announcing in the middle of the 2006 election that the Martin government was under criminal investigation for possible insider trading violations -- allegations that didn't go anywhere. Or how as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney able to explain why he was firing Andre Bissonette from cabinet in the Oerlikon affair?)

We all love a mystery. That's why this story has legs and will continue to do so for another week at least. The Prime Minister likely regrets already not being more forthcoming.

As an added bonus, Helena Guergis has a reputation as Ottawa's equivalent to Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean. This is why there are enough former employees of the Hon. Helena to fill a good part of the Charlottetown Airport.

When it is time for the Tories to do a post-mortem on the Guergis affair, they might want to look at issue management.

Last fall the governing party was able to swat away an inconvenient issue like an annoying gnat. But since the prorogation affair, this government hasn't been able to control the narrative that comes out of Ottawa daily.

They are like a sports franchise that has lost its winning ways and can't get the magic back.

So far the Opposition has been unable to capitalize. It will be interesting to see how long the Tories can count on their opponents' inability to take advantage.

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