Yesterday, Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan ‘leaked’ the news that Ontario would see a budget deficit of $18 Billion over the next two years.
We’ve been hearing hints of an Ontario deficit for a little while now. Of course, this is a communications strategy for mitigating bad news.
Just as the federal Conservatives did prior to the release of their own budget, PMO director of communication Kory Teneycke passed on the detail that the budget would be projecting deficit.
Strip the bad from the budget day headline and frontload some tax cuts and the other ‘silver lining’ elements on the day of the budget announcement. By that time, deficits are yesterday’s news and the media is biased towards reporting what’s new.
The federal Liberals protested when their Blue friends on the government benches did just over one month ago, while their provincial cousins are doing the same thing. Provincial Conservatives should avoid the same temptation.
Communications is necessary to move dry, plain or just ugly policy through the emotional and human crucible of the public forum. However, to burn at communications as a method instead of policy as substance is often too easy and while it may produce a bright flash, the flame is short and does nothing to get at the essence of debate.
We should not, however, dismiss real debate and positioning on issues. Some bemoan that politicians are ‘playing politics’ at a time of economic crisis. But, politics is getting to the core of an issue and at the methods by which it should be addressed. Let’s get past the bright flash and get down to it.