a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If this doesn’t shake up campaign, nothing will

Most of us have been thinking the TV debates tonight and Wednesday would be the potential game changer or tipping point in the current federal election campaign.

But it looks like that potential game changer came a day early with the leak of a draft report of the Auditor General on how the Harper government plowed $50 million into dubious G8 infrastructure in Muskoka.

Actually there were two leaks of AG material on G8 spending, and the second one tells a lot about how the Harper government puts out a fire.

The first leak, as most of us know, was leaked to the Canadian Press. It is a draft report, dated in January, that concludes Parliament may have been misled and federal law may have been broken before last June’s summit – not exactly what a government wants to read about itself during an election campaign.

So the Tories got busy doing what they do so well during controversy – changing the channel – with a counter leak of their own. They distributed to media a second draft report from the AG that was dated in February.

This draft is also critical of G8 spending but uses softer language. It does not say Parliament may have been misled, for example.

We will see over the next week whether the tactic is enough to diffuse the controversy. However, it was enough for the Tories to turn the tables and challenge the validity of the draft obtained by CP.

Tonight’s debate will be a battle of narratives. The government will try to blur the impact of the AG’s findings with the softer version. The opposition will push an ongoing narrative of government misspending, as well an overall lack of integrity.

In 18 days of campaigning, the Tories have been plagued with allegations of everything from using RCMP officers as bouncers at their rallies to hiding the real costs of F-35 jet fighters. But they still maintain a healthy lead in the polls.

Will this latest controversy be the tipping point the opposition has been waiting for? We likely won’t know until this weekend. But tonight’s debate likely will be incredible political drama just the same.

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