3/20/2006

Harper and the Media

PoliticsWatch has an article on Harper's supposed new code of silence. I never thought I'd say this about an article at PoliticsWatch, but some of the author's underlying assumptions seem to be naive. The original article came from the Globe & Mail, and was parrotted at CTV.
"...the PMO will have final approval for all communications products -- even Notes to Editors or Letters to the Editor," the e-mail obtained by the Globe stated. According to the e-mail, bureaucrats were told to reduce the amount of ministerial and public events that take away from the government's five priorities outlined during the election campaign. The PMO must approve all ministerial events also, the email said.
The only reason something as mundane as this is a story is because someone assumed (without thinking it through) that it was a bad idea. Consider carefully that the Conservatives have only a slim minority government. If they wish to be re-elected with a majority, then they have to do a good job this term. One of the best ways to do this is to present a united front and get whatever job done as quickly, quietly and efficiently as possible. In politics, as in life, the power of a united front can be formidable.
Currently, the Conservative government is in a minority situation and only nine of the 25 cabinet ministers have prior cabinet experience.
This is a key point. Inexperienced ministers need more guidance on how to behave, how to achieve a united front, than more seasoned individuals do. If you want to be successful in politics, you can't just spout whatever pops into your head at any given moment. If the government has specific issues that it wants to target this sitting, then all ministers need to be focused on that goal. The media is easily distracted. They will only be able to focus on your issue if all of your ministers are.
But the Liberals are criticizing the approach and are questioning whether such a strategy will be sustainable once the new Parliament opens on April 3. Liberal Senator Jim Munson, a former journalist who later served as director of communications for former prime minister Jean Chretien, said the way Harper appears to be operating his government is not standard procedure. "Monsieur Chretien allowed his ministers to speak their minds," Munson said. "He believed in and trusted his ministers because he believed in the concept of team. At the end of the day he was the ultimate voice of the government but just as important was the message."
MmHmmm.
Which is why we had the Martin camp and the Chretien camp, right? Also, I'd love to know why he doesn't use Martin as his example. Could it be because he was obsessive over having the Liberal Party on side with him over whatever issue? And if you say "Oh no, that couldn't possibly be," then I'll just have to remind you of the gay marriage bill and Martin's behaviour over that.
Any criticism that the Liberals could possibly have of Harper's communication strategy is, at best, total hypocrisy. Liberals tow the party line like there is no tomorrow. If Chretien allowed his ministers to speak their minds, and if I recall this happened rarely because Liberals like to parrot, it was because he was secure in a majority. What was anyone going to do?
Let's not forget that while the Conservatives may be limiting what is presented to the media, the Liberals made no end of presenting utter fabrications. I for one would rather the message be limited but truthful, but it would appear that this is not what the MSM wants. Standing before the press, lying through your teeth, stroking egos just for a photo op is pitiful behaviour for a government leader and Martin did this all the time. The Prime Minister should not be a media whore.

1 comment:

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

You just gotta love Harper's latest fashion edict for Ottawa (those cute little colour-coordinated "HarperMuzzles" so many Tories will be wearing for next few months). There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that the only permissible colour for the HarperMuzzles is blue. I have it on good authority that any primary colour will do, in fact, some expect Tory ministers to have a different colour for each day of the week! Now, that's being cutting edge!

But fear not, political discourse inside and outside the House will still find a way to bypass the HarperMuzzles and wander over the rest of the Harper New Tories agenda.

Then the true discussions will start on exactly what sort of Canada Harper wants to have.

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