Yesterday, I wrote a post with some general musings about political communications and how it complements politics and the public policy process. In short, I argued that when one criticizes the method by which another releases news instead of the substance of the news itself, it’s already a lost battle.
The example I brought up yesterday was Ontario Premier Dalton’s McGuinty’s unsurprising leak of Ontario’s budget shortfall projecting an $18 Billion deficit over two years. I suggested that we would be more productive debating how we got to this fiscal position and how to remedy it whereas the cheap and easy solution is to criticize the communications strategy of the leak (as the federal Liberals did when the Conservatives did this with the federal budget).
Today’s example is this business about the seal hunt and federal fisheries minister Gail Shea’s use of ministerial resources to put out partisan messaging. The substance of the message is the suggestion that Liberals are against the seal hunt. To be against the seal hunt may bring nugatious satisfaction to urban-dwelling self-styled sophisticates who would croak that such an industry is “dreadful” and “appalling” while it is the causus belli of the constituents of a block of Altantic ridings. Even Stephane Dion recognized the political disaster that would come from speaking out against the hunt. But the Liberals are not wisely measuring the risk of their latest moves against the Conservatives on the peripherals of this issue.
Yes, Gail Shea’s office made a mistake but it is perhaps a larger – yet characteristically instinctive – mistake for Liberals to criticize the method when by doing so they force wider the path to highlight the substance of the release. While Ottawa people get caught up in the fact that Stephen Harper’s minister didn’t dot her i’s and cross her t’s in the proper and polite procedural fashion, the real folks in Atlantic Canada look right past the syntax snafu and have another news cycle to consider that the folks in Ottawa that may be taking away their livelihood and according to this “press release scandal” those folks are Liberals!
For the Liberals, this is a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees or in this case the seal hunt for the jobs. Instead, they’re getting caught up in the syntax of it all.