Quick notes

February 22, 2009

I’ve slowly emerging from a very active period, both at work and at home. Some quick notes for now, more later.

Obama does Canada: The stop at the Byward Market was not only a good idea, it was also nicely executed. Those stunts are a little harder to do well than they look like (thinking about you, Stockwell Day). I hope the Beavertail didn’t make him sick.

Harper’s social media response lacking: Mr. Harper put to shame those critics saying he would look foolish and unloved standing besides Mr. Obama. It was a stupid theory and the visit actually went quite well for our Prime Minister, of course. Except for the social media response – while the White House was posting liveblogging and pictures of the visit, the most recent picture of the Prime Minister’s Flickr channel was about a visit to Toronto’s transit authority.

Begging with dignity: It’s fun to watch North American automobile executives trying to find the right note in their relationship with governments these days. They realized showing up in their luxury jets wasn’t going to endear them to the taxpayers. On the other hand, you’re trying to keep your dignity with abjectly begging for a multi-billion government handout you absolutely don’t deserve. What to do, what to do…

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Canadian citizens collateral victims of ruthless Conservative PR

December 5, 2008

Well, the idea of a coalition government seems to be all but over. It’s been killed by incompetence within the Liberal PR team, a leader trying to improvise his way out of a crisis and an absolutely ruthless Conservative flack team.

I like ruthlessness. It’s when your opponent is flinching that you need to hit him the hardest. But we’re not talking about boxing on the Wii here. This is the national political scene and Canadian citizens are taking the hits.

The Prime Minister lies in a national address to the Canadian people. Some of our MPs are calling others ‘traitors’. The ruling party attempts to bludgeon the people into compliance with ads designed to propagate fear among a population already worried about the economic situation.

Ugly PR. Bad politics.

Further reading:  Conservative propaganda won, I lost: Dion


Stephen Harper’s address to the nation

December 3, 2008

I just watched Prime minister Stephen Harper make his “address to the Nation(s)”. Actually, I just watched the Prime minister get a free TV commercial.

In a poised manner, M. Harper simply mouthed the spin he and his people have been using for the last 36 hours. He had no new information to communicate, nothing about what he intends to do to resolve the current political crisis and certainly presented no extended hand to the opposition parties.

So why use his prerogative to send a message on the country’s broadcasting system in times of crisis? Heck, it’s free TV, why not? By the time the opposition gets their message ready for broadcasting, people will have switched to something else.

It’s pretty good PR. It’s terribly bad politics. It has nothing to do with democracy.

Elsewhere-on-the-blogosphere update: Follow the conversation on these blogs-

Bastard.logic: http://bastardlogic.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/shorter-stephen-harper/#comment-15994

Mirabile dictu: http://alterwords.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/harper-lies-to-canadians/#comment-1225

DECAPITATION UPDATE: I just saw the French version of Dion’s video reply. The frame is completely off, he looks like he’s been decapitated. Geez, can’t these guys do anything right?


Liberal-NDP coalition agreement signed, post 2

December 1, 2008

I admit I’m impressed. Dion, Layton and Duceppe had a very good news conference. Dion got the reporters to laugh (with him, not at him this time) and Layton was inspiring when he talked about how this is how politicians should work together.

The ‘coalition’ (of the willing?) is going to have good TV for a few hours. The pundits and minor MPs (hello Scott Reid) the Conservatives have sent on the political shows can’t compete with images of the three opposition leaders making common cause. They need to get out with their big guns, but do it intelligently. Stephen Harper wasn’t too good in Question Period (he can’t get rid of that damned sneer apparently), they need to provide better clips of him than the one when he addresses the Speaker as “Mr. Prime Minister”.

Dec 2 UPDATE: The letters from the opposition leaders and agreement are available here on the Liberal website and here on the NDP’s.

See also: Liberal-NDP coalition agreement signed


Liberal-NDP coalition agreement signed

December 1, 2008

I’ve been spending as much time watching CBC Newsworld as I could this afternoon, with the indulgence of my boss and colleagues. Whatever will happen in the next week, the day’s events will make history.

An agreement has just been signed between the Liberal, New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois allowing a Liberal-NDP Cabinet with the support of the Bloc. Contingent upon the Conservatives losing power, of course… The agreement would guarantee a stable government until at least June, 2010.

Kudos to CBC reporter Rosemary Barton, who was able to translate as she read from the French copy coalition agreement she was given by the liberal flacks, before the English version reached her.

To spice it up further, the Conservatives have released the transcript of a telephone conversation involving NDP leader Jack Layton, prompting accusations of Watergate-like phone tapping.

Whatever the Conservatives had in mind with last week’s stange economic statement, it failed miserably. I’m the first one to be surprised at seeing their strategy fall apart. The PR moves of the next few days will need to be consistent with clear communication objectives if they are to regain the initiative. Their first reflex – “it’s a coup!” – does seems to be somewhat of a gaffe. The Conservative pundits I’ve seen so far look somewhat befuddled and don’t seem to have clear speaking points. Is there a problem with the Conservative spin machine?

See also: Liberal-NDP coalition agreement signed, post 2


Liberals put Adscam behind them – now for the bad news…

August 30, 2008

This little bit (pdf warning) from the latest Angus Reid poll seems to be confirming that the federal Liberals have put Adscam behind them. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s “Honesty and trustworthiness” rating is at 30%, to Prime minister Harper’s 31%. If Liberals should not have to worry too much about their past relationship with shady admen when they go door-to-door next week, they have their leader to thank for this. Also, Canadians are telling Angus Reid that when it comes to environment issues, they trust Mr. Dion a lot more (45%) than Mr. Harper (27%) – all Dion’s doing (he’s been campaigning on this since the leadership race).

But that’s all the good news the Liberals are going to get from this poll.

Approval ratings: Harper 32%, Duceppe 39% (Qc only), Layton 30%, May 21%, Dion 11%. The approval rating is like Homer Simpson falling off a cliff: every time you go down a position (“doh!”), it hurts more and more. Dion is flat down at the bottom, hurting.

The campaign starts in a few days. Let’s see how these numbers move.


Our Prime Minister knows his classics

August 23, 2008

With all that talk about cuts to arts and culture programs, it has been said, sometimes in terms barely suitable for a respectable broadsheet, that our Prime Minister has no interest for culture.

I beg to differ. Mr. Harper knows his classics. Given his recent political maneuvering, I think I know which book he keeps by his bed.

In 50 B.C., a politician named Gaïus Julius was in a similar predicament as Mr. Harper is now: Parliament was troublesome, but his coffers were full of cash and he had legions of troops spoiling for a fight. But Gaïus feared public opinion would turn on him if he appeared too confrontational. He needed some PR work done to avoid damaging his image. Thus, he sent his flacks to the capital to explain that while he would never think of doing anything drastic, he couldn’t allow democracy to be flouted by his opponents. He proposed a meeting with them.

In the book he wrote about the whole thing, he sums up his public stance:

“I was waiting to receive a reply to my own very moderate demands and hoping that a certain sense of fairness might be shown so that everything could end peacefully.” (The translation I have at home is livelier than the online text).

We all know what happens after that: having sufficiently demonstrated his unwillingness to take arms, Caesar takes a deep breath, crosses the Rubicon, wins his majority and goes ahead with Senate reform.

The only thing that doesn’t quite fit is the enemy, famous orator Pompeï. Surely that can’t be Stéphane Dion…