Goodyear’s clarification: bad, bad PR

March 18, 2009

Gary Goodyear should not have accepted the appointment as Secretary of State for science and technology if he holds so little regard or interest for science. It doesn’t matter if his distrust comes from religion, childhood experiences or a bad chemistry teacher in Grade 9 (well maybe it does, but at another level).

But it’s hard to refuse a first appointment, especially since it was either that or the backbenches. Fine. But when the very predictable PR crisis came, he should have faced it without hiding behind “I’m a Christian, so back off.” Today’s half-hearted and very strange clarification (footwear as a driver of the genetic evolution of the human species?) shows one of two things: either he was never briefed on the concept, even now that it’s headline news; or his brain turned off during the briefing.

Parliament resumes on Monday. Goodyear’s PR people better make sure the Minister is about to talk about species evolution in an intelligent way at that point.


CBC needs $ 65 million, fast

February 25, 2009

The CBC is deep in the redbecause, well, nobody’s buying advertizing time right now. Apparently discussions are already under way with Heritage Canada. Most government-watchers I talk to agree there will be some kind of rescue funding but some cuts will have to be made – the process is already underway internally. There shall be pain.

It’s nice to see the dismal situation has not affected CBC VP Stursberg’s metaphorical speaking style. “The revenues fell off a cliff. … I have not seen a slide that precipitous and that deep in my entire life.”

So is the Mother Corp sinking?

“We have not been able to bail the boat as quickly as the water is coming in over the gunwales.”

Better keep pumpin’, mate!

February 26 update: Okay, so it seems the government isn’t seriously considering additional funding for the CBC after all. Perhaps my contact were doing a little spin themselves… Still, there are many ways to get money to the CBC and not call it a bailout. Let’s see what happens now.

Budget now about “policy communication”, veteran budget-watcher says

January 26, 2009

Budget day tomorrow (Speech from the Throne in just 2 hours… but who cares?). Instead of trying to read the collective mind of the PMO like I did the last time, I’m going to turn over this blogging space to Bruce Doern, retired Carleton University academic and famous budget-watcher. From an interview in the Hill Times this morning:

“Another trend Prof. Doern has noticed is the centralization of the decision-making into the Prime Minister’s Office and the shift from policy-making to “policy communication,” where much of the crafting and what goes around budgets is about taking care of the wording and proper framing of the policy so that it’s well-received by the public.

Ah yes… once a muted and fairly straightforward exercise, budgets are now shrouded in a thick veil of public relations. Witness the massive leaking of the budget’s content this time around, for example. The spin doesn’t always work too well though:

Prof. Doern said the Nov. 27 economic and fiscal update and “the events surrounding” what is usually a fairly apolitical document dealing with the overall state of the economy were “amongst the most incompetent” he’s ever seen. (…)

“Just the way that it was prepared and how vindictive it was, and then the consequences of what happened, and I also think it tended to show that the Department of Finance was itself kind of asleep at the switch because it’s clear that a lot of that was being drafted out of the Prime Minister’s Office so I just think that was a real low point,” said Prof. Doern.

“This one will be different because I think they really got burnt at the last one so I’m sure they are listening and they are getting lots of advice,” said Prof. Doern.

Advice from whom?

The combination of fiscal forecasting by think-tanks, banks, international bodies and the Parliamentary budget officer creates a more “pluralistic set of views” that is “healthier for fiscal policymaking” he said.

Ah yes. Prof. Doern is too well mannered to use the “L” word, but the Hill Times isn’t. See its front-page text posted on the Web:

Lobbyists to descend on Parliament Hill on budget day

They asked and they shall receive. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for lobbyists.

Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Michel Rivard appointed to Senate

December 22, 2008

Journalists Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are among the 18 people just appointed to the Senate by Prime minister Stephen Harper. Wow, is CTV is becoming a Senator Boot Camp?

No, not this Michel Rivard.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Fabian Manning has dedicated his career to serving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at all three levels of government.  A three term councilor in the town of St. Brides, Mr. Manning served as coordinator for the Cape Shore Area Development Association for three years.  Mr. Manning would go on to win three elections to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly as the representative for Placentia – St. Mary’s.  Mr. Manning was subsequently elected as Member of Parliament in the federal constituency of Avalon in the 2006 Federal Election campaign.  Mr. Manning would go on to chair both the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Conservative Government’s Atlantic caucus.

Nova Scotia

Fred Dickson, QC is both one of Nova Scotia’s most respected lawyers and one of Canada’s top legal experts on offshore resource development.  Mr. Dickson is counsel with the law firm of McInnes Cooper.   Mr. Dickson has advised the federal and provincial government’s on numerous resource and infrastructure projects, including serving as an advisor to the Government of Nova Scotia during the singing of the 1982 and 1985 Canada / Nova Scotia Offshore Oil and Gas Agreements.  Mr. Dickson remains active in these files as a Director of the Offshore / Onshore Technologies Association of Nova Scotia and Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

Stephen Greene has political and policy experience at both the federal and provincial levels.  Mr. Greene served as Chief of Staff in the Leader’s Office of the Reform Party of Canada from 1993 and 1996 during which he helped manage the opposition response to the national unity and fiscal issues of the day.  He went on to work as the Executive Director of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia.  For the past two years he has served as Principal Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald with wide responsibilities to help the Premier administer an effective government for all Nova Scotians.

Michael L. MacDonald is a Nova Scotia businessman who since 1988 has been the owner and President of Fleur de Lis Motel Ltd. Mr. MacDonald had previously served terms as executive assistant to two federal cabinet ministers and the premier of Nova Scotia.  A graduate of the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Mr. MacDonald has been an activist and volunteer with the federal and provincial Conservative parties since university, and is presently Vice-President of the Conservative Party of Canada and a two-term representative for Nova Scotia on the party’s national executive. A native of Louisbourg, Mr. MacDonald is a long-time resident of Dartmouth where he resides with his wife and two teenaged sons.

Prince Edward Island

Michael Duffy is one of Canada’s most well known and respected news personalities and the current host of CTV’s daily program, Mike Duffy Live.  Mr. Duffy joined CBC Radio News in 1974, switched to CBC TV’s “The National” in 1978, and joined CTV in 1988.  He is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.  Mr. Duffy is involved in a number of charitable activities both in Ottawa and in his home province, including the UPEI Building fund, and the current Holland College Foundation Fundraising campaign.  He has been a visiting fellow at Duke University; and has been twice nominated for the “Best in the Business” award by the Washington Journalism Review. Mr. Duffy has received many other awards and citations, and honourary degrees from the University of PEI; from Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY; and from Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford.

New Brunswick

Percy Mockler has been a long-time MLA in the New Brunswick legislature since he was first elected in 1982. During his time in the provincial legislature, Mr. Mockler served in a number of portfolio’s including Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Solicitor General and Minister of Human Resources  Development and Housing. Mr. Mockler is a former advisory member for trade opportunities strategy with the federal Department of External Affairs. He has also been active in community affairs as treasurer of local fish and wildlife associations, a director of the caisse populaire, and as a member and chair of his local school board.

John D. Wallace was born in Rothesay, NB and had a distinguished law career in Saint John.  Most recently, he served for 7 years as Partner/Counsel at the law firm of Stewart McKelvey.  Previously he had been Corporate Counsel for Irving Oil Limited and a Partner at Palmer, O’Connell, Leger, Turnbull and Turnbull.  Mr. Wallace continued his community service after retiring from law.  He is a Member of the University of New Brunswick Board of Governors, the St. John Imperial Theatre Capital Campaign Cabinet and the New Brunswick Symphony Steering Committee. Mr. Wallace was the Telegraph-Journal Male Newsmaker of the Year in 2002 and became a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.


Patrick Brazeau is a member of the Algonquin Nation and a citizen of the Indian reserve of Kitigan Zibi, near Maniwaki, Quebec. A champion of the rights of Aboriginals, in 2006, he was chosen as the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. He used this forum to promote the economic and social development of Aboriginals, especially those who live off-reserve. Mr. Brazeau has a black belt in karate and was a member of the Naval Reserve on HMCS Carleton, in Ottawa.

Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis was born in Chicoutimi and studied at the École des Beaux-arts de Québec and at Laval University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and a certificate in college education. She was a teacher at the regional school board Louis-Fréchette. In 1981, she became the first woman to be elected to the Municipal Council of the City of Sainte-Foy. She became active in federal politics and was elected as the MP for the riding of Louis-Hébert from 1984 to 1993. Ms. Fortin-Duplessis has always been involved in the community. During her career, she was a member of the board of the Alzheimer Society and the Fondation de l’Opéra de Québec, and she is a member of the Laval hospital and the Saint-Sacrement hospital foundations. More recently, she was a volunteer for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Leo Housakos was born in Montreal and studied at Cégep Vanier and at McGill University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in arts, with a major in political science and history. In 1993, he co-founded the Montreal Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and is currently a Director of Via Rail Canada.Throughout his business career he has held important management positions in several companies, including Quadvision Consultants and Terrau. Mr. Housakos is married and is the father of two children.

Michel Rivard studied in Quebec City and spent the most part of his professional life in public administration. He was President of the Corporation des maîtres entrepreneurs en réfrigération du Québec, then Mayor of Beauport from 1980 to 1984. Mr. Rivard was director of a number of organizations, and was President of the Executive Committee of the Communauté Urbaine de Québec. In 1994, he was elected at the Assemblée nationale as the MNA for Limoilou. He was Regional Delegate for the region of Quebec and parliamentary Assistant of the Minister responsible for the region of Quebec.


Nicole Eaton has devoted much of her life to serving her community in varying degrees through her participation and leadership in a number of charitable organizations, foundations and the arts. Presently she is Director and Vice-Chair of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, Director and Vice-Chair the National Ballet of Canada and Chair of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Previously, Ms Eaton has served in varying capacities on a number of other organizations, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the George R. Gardiner Museum, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Stratford Festival of Canada. Ms Eaton is also a columnist for the newspaper the National Post and is co-author of two publications.

Irving Gerstein, C.M., O. Ont is a businessman and corporate director.  A Member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, Mr. Gerstein has been involved in politics for over 40 years, including service as Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada. He is an Honourary Director of Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), having previously served as Chairman of the Board, Chairman Emeritus, and a director over a period of twenty-five years.   He is a director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a former Chairman of the Young Presidents Organization.   Mr. Gerstein graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania, and attended The London School of Economics.


Pamela Wallin, O.C., S.O.M is an award winning journalist whose career stretches back more than three decades.  Ms. Wallin is most recognized from her time at CTV where she co-hosted Canada AM and later served as CTV’s Ottawa Bureau chief.  Ms. Wallin would subsequently form her own production company Pamela Wallin Productions Inc.   Ms. Wallin has remained active in public life as Chancellor of the University of Guelph and Senior Advisor on Canada-US relations to the President of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas.  In 2007, Prime Minister Harper appointed Ms. Wallin to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan. Ms. Wallin has agreed to step down as Senator and submit her name as a candidate when Saskatchewan holds its first legislated Senate election.

British Columbia

Nancy Greene Raine, O.C., OBC was Canada’s female athlete of the last century by the Canadian Press and Broadcast News.  She won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968. Her total of 14 World Cup victories (including the Olympics) is still a Canadian record. During her nine-year career Nancy won a total of 17 Canadian Championship titles. Since retiring from active competition, she has worked to promote the sport and was instrumental in the early development of the Whistler-Blackcomb Resort.  Since 1994 she has been Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resort and since 2005 she has been Chancellor of Thompson Rivers University.  Ms. Green Raine is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of both Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Yonah Martin has deep roots in both Korean and Canadian heritage and has spent her life building bridges between different cultural communities in BC.  Born in Seoul, South Korea, before immigrating to Canada 1972, Ms. Martin is the co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society and has served on the Multicultural Advisory Council of BC, the Vancouver Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation, the Kateslem After School Club and the Coquitlam Festival Planners Network.   Ms. Martin has also been active in political life as a candidate in the constituency of New Westminster-Coquitlam.  In 2004 Ms. Martin received ‘Spirit of Community’ award for her service in the Tri-Cities Area.

Richard Neufeld has spent close to two decades in public service to the people of British Columbia.  First elected to represent the riding of Peace River North in 1991, Mr. Neufeld has been re-elected on three separate occasions.  Since 2001 Mr. Neufeld has served as British Columbia’s Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources.  Mr. Neufeld has also served as the on the council of Fort Nelson, including five years as mayor.  Prior to his involvement in public life, Mr. Neufeld owned and operated his own business.


Hector Daniel Lang has made the Yukon his home for more than 50 years.  Born in 1948 in Dawson Creek, BC, he moved with his family to Whitehorse where he completed high school, and later attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  First elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1974, Mr Lang served 5 consecutive terms, retiring from the legislature in 1992.  Over the course of his 18 years in elected office he was responsible for numerous Ministerial portfolios and later served in the opposition.  Since 1992, Mr. Lang has worked as a Sales Associate in the Yukon Real Estate industry.  Active in community affairs, he is currently the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for Yukon College. He has four children and three grandchildren, who reside in Whitehorse. Mr Lang presently lives in Whitehorse with his partner Valerie Hodgson, a local artist.

The point about appointments

December 12, 2008

In addition to the uproar the government is causing by preparing to appoint 18 persons with a very specific agenda to the Senate, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that more than 500 administrative appointments have been processed this year. That’s a huge number of new people on various boards, administrative tribunals, etc.

The appointments cause the appearance of political patronage, of course. But moving away from public relations into the world of the Public Service for a moment, I would like to make a different point.

Those administrative (and Senate) appointments were made because the positions were vacant. Actually, many have been left vacant for a long time. From Day 1 of Canada’s New Government, there has been much foot-dragging on appointments. The workload of those remaining increased and work has been piling up. Lots of people have been complaining about this, but our political masters consented to spend a little time on appointments only over the last year, trying to clear that monstrous backlog.

This was allowed to happen because this government has a profound dislike of the Public Service and of the professionals working in it, with a tendency to view them as enemies. They have made it clear through their words and deeds right from the start. They have told our bosses to get approval from the PMO for any public communication, and told us peons to shut up. Some have not and paid the price. That is one reason why this blog is anonymous.

This brings us to the paradox of Public Service Renewal. The Public Service needs to increase the number of people it hires each year, to compensate for the hordes of retiring workers. “PS Renewal” is the big buzzword in Ottawa right now and pretty much the only thing our big boss Kevin Lynch cares about. But how do you recruit people with skills when government members treat the Public Service as if we are a bunch of scheming, incompetent paper-pushers? All right, some of us are – go after them, not the whole outfit.

Fortunately, in the current economic climate good people might be desperate enough to consider the federal Public Service as a lesser evil. And there is good, interesting work getting done, especially in areas the government doesn’t pay too much attention to.

I’ve had quite a few Blogging Tories coming to the blog lately, probably to get a good giggle out of this post. Feel free to leave comments and propose variations to “scheming, incompetent paper-pusher” if you like. Or you could show you guys actually have a sense of humour and post your favourite joke about bureaucrats. I generally edit comments only to remove insults of a racial of sexual nature – some of you guys have been naughty little boys and girls lately.

Taking the time to think about social media

December 8, 2008

Nice debate on Joseph Thornley’s blog on social media and journalism. Well worth my time, and probably yours.

I’m surprised at the number of conferences, workshops, informal groups and working groups on social media in the last year in Ottawa. With GCPedia that just came online, it’s clear this trend will continue, economic crisis notwithstanding.

It’s a good news / bad news kind of week in the Hill Times

December 8, 2008

You can count on the Hill Times to cover every angle of a political story. This week, Ottawa’s favourite insider rag leads with a headline that is sure to send chills up the spine of all serious civil servants:

Prorogation now grinds government’s legislative agenda to a halt

On the other hand, there’s also this text on the brighter side of the crisis:

Hundreds of Cabinet and PMO staffers to lose jobs if PM defeated

Cynical? Maybe. It’s just the times…