a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The decline of a political superstar

There is nothing like someone being sent in to do your job to focus your thinking on a career change. Just ask Peter MacKay.

But maybe the moderates in his party, the so-called ``Red Tories’’ should be thinking about their own futures.

MacKay is being publicly humiliated. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly. The defence minister has even had to stay silent while Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister’s communications director, spoke to the media about Canada’s extended mission in Afghanistan.

When the government got around to providing details about the extended mission on Tuesday, there was MacKay in the background with Bev Oda, the very junior minister of international aid, while Cannon ran the news conference.

As is the custom at multi-ministered news conferences in Ottawa, MacKay was allowed to provide a couple of sound bites, lest we all think he was just there as a prop. But his appearance will do nothing to stop the public speculation on what sparked one of the more spectacular falls from grace in federal politics.

Most of that speculation has centred on personal disagreements with Stephen Harper. Your guess is as good as mine. But there may be reasons beyond personal hard feelings.

When the former Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties merged in 2003 to form the present Conservative party, the focus was on how to break a 21-year Liberal dynasty rather than how to merge two different political cultures.

In fact those behind the rushed merger never did get around to a founding policy convention. Nor was there much time for public breaking of bread by former foes.

Over the years, the former PCs’ influence has been diminishing to the point where the merger has clearly become a takeover. With Jim Prentice now gone, MacKay is about the last trace of the PCs in cabinet. And if Heritage Minister James Moore winds up seeking the leadership of the B.C. Liberals to replace Gordon Campbell, there won’t be many moderates left either.

So while MacKay may continue to deny he is leaving, he likely will be gone in the New Year. (Remember, he hasn’t actually denied speaking with a Toronto law firm.)

Nothing personal, Peter. It’s just business.

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