Friday, February 10, 2006

Says the ref: Turner a touchdown, Fortier a fumble. Says I: Turner for speaker!

Public relations firm Veritas Canada sends out a weekly e-mail called Touchdowns & Fumbles reviewing recent news events and judging how the principals performed from a communications and public relations perspective.

I’m sure they were expecting the political entries to lessen with the campaign over, but it would be impossible to overlook this week in political communications. They’ve chosen to dissect two events: Michael Fortier’s disdain for democracy and Garth Turner’s commitment to it.

Fortier is obvious but I don’t think I totally agree on Turner, in the sense I don’t see Stephen Harper bringing Turner into cabinet a la Chris Stockwell to shut him up. Maybe his colleagues will elect him speaker, as a (not so) silent protest (it's a secret ballot, right?). Or maybe the Liberals, NDP and BQ will. Hey, there’s an idea. Turner for speaker! Would that ever piss off Harper!

Anyway, here's what Veritas has to say. The full newsletter is available here.


Newly Appointed Fortier Says He Didn’t Want to Run for Office

Michael Fortier, the new Conservative government Public Works Minister, is an amazingly talented guy. I’ve met him. He’s brilliant. He has had a remarkable private sector career to show for it. But he may still have a few things to learn about communications in politics. As questions were raised about the Conservative Quebec organizer being suddenly appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper – remember, the Reform wing of the Conservative party long lobbied for an elected, democratic Senate – so that Fortier could sit in cabinet, the new minister’s comments to reporters didn’t help matters. "I didn't run in the election because I didn't want to run in the election," Fortier said. The essence of a parliamentary democracy in Canada is based on individuals being elected as Members of Parliament and the party electing the most members forming a government. Fortier didn’t pass that democratic test, because, as he admits, he didn’t want to take it. Had the Conservatives lost, Fortier would have continued his lucrative private sector law career. "I had a great career, five young kids, and so it wasn't the right situation for me to run when the election came around. That's just the simple truth," he said. But it does strike many as a tad opportunistic to say that since the Conservatives did form a government, Fortier found acceptable the personal sacrifice of joining cabinet so long as he didn’t need to go through the sometimes messy electoral process. There was better messaging for Fortier to stick to, namely that he planned to run in the next election or a by-election should one occur; and that during the election campaign all his time and energies were focused on the Conservative party breakthrough in Quebec. Later, he did admit: "It would be wise of me to start looking (for a constituency) soon.” But his initial comments were a Fumble.


Garth Turner’s Vermin-Infested Dank Basement

Newly elected Halton Conservative MP Garth Turner most certainly wouldn’t receive a communications Touchdown from his own government or political party, but he gets one from us this week. Turner made some comments earlier this week about David Emerson, who was elected in Vancouver as a Liberal, but switched to the Conservatives to joined Harper’s cabinet. "Anybody who switches parties should go back to the people. To do otherwise is to place politicians above the people when, actually, it's the other way around," Turner said. Then, he commented in his online blog about a dressing down from several party officials and even Harper himself. "If you would like a course on how not to be popular in Ottawa, then take a seat... after today I'm expecting the Whip will be assigning me a renovated washroom somewhere in a forgotten corner of a vermin-infested dank basement in Ottawa. That should go well with my seat in the House of Commons that will be visible only during lunar eclipses." Keep in mind, Turner is strategically addressing his brand as an outspoken maverick, one honed over years as a newspaper columnist and TV and radio commentator. The Tories knew what they were getting when Turner became a candidate. In most governments there are mavericks who criticize their own regime. Some say they can even be useful to the government. Mike Harris had Chris Stockwell, and Brian Mulroney had Alan Redway. Sometimes these mavericks eventually become such a pain that they themselves are elevated to cabinet (as both Stockwell and Redway were). So in terms of his own brand and his own positioning in the new Ottawa, Turner scored a Touchdown.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Anonymous said...

Hi, I know this is off topic, but what is the deal with Cunningham? Did he switch or am I crazy?


Jeff said...

I haven't heard anything anon, what have you heard? It seems unlikely, as Cunningham was a Martin koolaider. He did run the Vancouver Minister's Regional Office for Emerson, but he and the rest of the staff were hired by the PMO, not Emerson, and I understand his opinion of them wasn't overly high.

However, not that I'd want to feed conspiracy theories, this CKNW story is the only post-defection, on the record comment I can find from Billy and while he's saying the right words, but it doesn't sound like he has his heart in it...

The former B.C President of the Liberal party is stunned by David Emerson's defection to the Conservatives.

Bill Cunningham says he hopes the surprise move was motivated by Emerson's dedication to B.C. “Assuming that is the primary drive behind this decision,” Cunningham said. “It's a very sad day for the liberal party. That being said, you know, I think we as British Columbians have to take heart that here's a man who entered public life to try and get things done for his province. I can only think this is another move in that direction.”

Cunningham admits he's extremely disappointed, but he doesn't think any other Liberal MP’s will cross the floor.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I didn't think he did. In BC there's publiceyeonline, which I'm very sure you are familiar with, and they were talking about him that he was useless, blah, blah, blah, and the way they were talking made him sound like perhaps he traded sides.

As a bit of a Liberal onlooker - I've volunteered, etc in the past, but am more involved at the provincial level - what do you think will happen with the rebuilding of the party (i.e. Martinites get the boot)? Do you think that Marissen, Elmhirst, etc, will still be wheeling the same kind of power? And do you think that the Party in BC is that well organized?

Thanks a lot - your blog is one of the few that I enjoy reading because I find it actually intelligent.

Jeff said...

Thanks anon, I appreiate that.

I was involved on the riding level in BC for a few years, but in a rural riding though so far from the centre and defintely far from an insider. I moved East this summer so I'm not that close to what's happening on the ground.

There has always been a rural/urban split in the LPCBC, and the power base of the ruling clique is concentrated there. Outside Vancouver and Victoria most organizers have little time for the Van/Vic young turk crowd.

Within that urban base it's difficult to say. I think they all need to be swept out myself. They're young and arrogant know-it-alls who have alienated large swaths of the grassroots.

Will they still hang-in now that we're out of power? Tough to say. I suspect (hope) not. I think a lot will depend on the leadership race, and if the Martinis congregate behind one candidate or not. If there's one thing they've proven they're good at it's taking over riding associations and stacking meetings, and if they see a candidate as their ticket back on the gravytrain they may climb on board.

The LPCBC needs serious reform but it needs to come from the grassroots, and I'm just not sure the energy and inclination to do it is there.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's been a really rough year for the Marissen-Clark duo. I have a feeling they are both on their way out.

Marissen was behind Clark's campaign to win the NPA nomination and she lost... by around 60 votes. You know why, because she had all her husband's people running her campaign.

You know they signed up more than 2000 - yes 2000 - members for a party that had about 4000 or so to begin with. They still managed to loose because they are all so cocky and have all these young guys running things. They all assume their positions and power that they don't think they need to work.

Word on the street is that they are now trying to stack the BC Liberal executive with Clark supporters. I don't know how well that is going though. The AGM is looking to be in the Okanagan for Novemberish.

Personally, I don't think it will work. I know there are a lot of people (staffers) who are working on preventing that.

I know Clark is paranoid that Carole Taylor might take her place in the Premier's office after Campbell is done. What has got to be even more terrifying for Clark, is the fact that Taylor is actually doing a great job and the grassroots love her.

It was published in the G/M that Taylor was asked to seek the leadership bid of the federal Liberals. I swear it was Marissen trying to free up the runway for his wife.

In any case, with the Liberals defeated, Emerson gone, his wife out of power, I think Marissen is screwed at best right now.

Who do you think are the front runners for the leadership bid? Which ones are Martinites?

Jeff said...

I was a bit surprised Carole Taylor's name hadn't come up in the leadership discussion, particularly when the need for credible female candidates was discussed. I left BC in July so I haven't followed her performance in cabinet, but she does seem to have the right Fed Lib centerist credentials.

As for leadership candidates it's all wide-open now with the biggies out. It hasn't been at the front of my mind though, I think it has been goot to focus on the new government's pratfalls for a little while to give the possible candidates to consider their options without the glare of the media splotlight.

Harper is going to steady the ship, we don't need to rush into anything yet. Better to do this thing right.