Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Managing expectations

I've touched down in Los Angeles for a work trip for briefings with HP, checked into the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills and I have two hours to go and enjoy the sunny, warm weather and look for movie stars before my first meeting. So I'm going to try to keep my comments on last night's budget vote short, so I can get out of my room.

I agree with much of what Steve said on the topic. I'm very annoyed with what happened last night. Let me explain why though. For the Liberal team this was a failure of communications, and of managing expectations.

One thing should be clear from the start: the Liberals were always going to pass the budget, and this associated stimulus funding. First, we believe in this time of economic crisis we need to get the stimulus flowing. Second, voting it down would have triggered an election. There's no getting around that. And even if we wanted an election right now, Canadians don't. Triggering an election no one wants would be stupid right now. So this was always going to pass.

Where we erred was in allowing the expectation to arise that anything else was the case. And it's our own fault. We made the right call in January, that's clear: pass the budget and get out of the way to get the money flowing. Attach accountability measures and quarterly reporting. If we don't like what we see, we vote no-confidence.

When this $3B fund thing came up it seems we wanted to try the same play: let it pass with accountability measures attached. We did well on the latter half of that equation, the accountability measures were reasoned and sensible. Where we erred was on the first half, with the "blank check" rhetoric we allowed the false impression to take hold we were prepared to vote the stimulus down. We never were, but we left that impression, which then makes it seem like we've fallen into the same huff and puff and run away mentality again.

Fact is, the accountability measures we wanted were passed before the main stimulus vote, with BQ and NDP support. So we met our strategic goal, but our failure to manage expectations casts it as a defeat. And we're letting the other parties spin it thay way, we're not getting our message out.

Yes, the Conservatives say they'll ignore the motion: then we can go to Canadians and say Harper is ignoring the will if Parliment and the accountability demanded by a majority of parliamentarians. And they have actually promised more reporting, so we'll know where this money goes.

Yes, they motion is non-binding. We always knew that. It was always going to be non-binding. The enforcement is through the quarterly reports, through voting non-confidence if they're not behaving responsibly.

The lesson I hope the Liberals take here is to manage expectations, and don't bring the rhetoric if you're not going to back it up. We're on the right track here, we're behaving responsibly and Canadians are onside. Let's not fall into the old huff and bluff habits.

What happened to keeping this brief? I'm off to Rodeo Drive.

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1 comment:

Barcs said...

“I am not writing a blank cheque on $3-billion. No Canadian would respect me if I did,” Mr. Ignatieff said at the time.

"Yet Liberals supported the fund Tuesday even though the government had not provided any of the details they'd demanded."


He does seem to huff and puff like Dion.... not to mention having already supported the Tories on more votes than Dion had the opportunity to vote on.

p.s. ... subliminal messages in the posts word verification: "bednow".... I am feeling sleepy, very sleepy.