Chiefs of Staff pick their misplay of the week

Every week, the government’s chiefs of staff gather to meet to discuss everything from emerging crises and challenges to staffing issues. This high level meeting of chiefs is among the other regular classified gatherings including senior communications and issues management meetings. Save extenuating circumstances, every ministerial chief of staff is expected at the meeting.

Last week, I learned that among the pressing issues of state, the chiefs are now taking a weekly poll at the boardroom table to award an Ottawa-based reporter a dubious honour who they believe “got it wrong” that week. I’m told that the inaugural recipient of the Chief’s (dis)honour is Mike Blanchfield who wrote a puzzling piece on the Prime Minister’s YouTube experiment:

Pot, Palin and prorogation: Harper gets grilled on YouTube

OTTAWA – After being called a “pansy” by a cartoon Sarah Palin, Stephen Harper’s experiment with YouTube might yet leave him pining for the parliamentary press gallery.

The response to the prime minister’s pitch this week to hear from Canadians via the popular video website hasn’t exactly been overwhelming. By mid-afternoon Friday, just 69 people had weighed in.

But they hit on a wide variety of topics, including many Harper likely won’t be eager to address – like legalizing marijuana and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

It often wasn’t so much what they asked – it was how. Many did Marshall McLuhan proud, using the medium of do-it-yourself video to ask tough questions, while lampooning Harper with stinging messages. His controversial prorogation of Parliament was a prime target.

“You are what we call in Alaska, a pansy,” said a digital cartoon of ex-Alaska governor Sarah Palin in one posting.

“Is it a Canadian tradition for Canadian leaders to run away and hide? If a president did what you did, there would be rioting in the streets? How did you get away with it?”

Another appended Britney Spears’ video “Oops, I Did It Again,” to ask Harper whether he would ever again break his own fixed-election date law and call another snap election like he did in 2008.

Others were serious and direct, especially when it came to climate change.

One B.C. questioner challenged Harper’s conduct at December’s global climate-change meeting in Copenhagen: “I’m interested to know why Minister Prentice and yourself addressed the climate-change issue in such a way that Canada suffered an international embarrassment as the winner of the Fossil of the Day Award.”

Another questioner attached a 29-minute video of a Bill Gates presentation to buttress a question on how Harper planned to fund his maternal and child-health program that he plans to push through the G8.

On the economy, bald and goateed Martyman500 from Markham, Ont., looked straight into the camera and asked the prime minister why he was bringing in the Harmonized Sales Tax: “Why do you let big companies hire and fire workers so they have to avoid paying benefits?”

Harper has been criticized for avoiding the national media – and its tough questions – by taking his message directly to Canadians through advertising or local media.

There appeared to be few, if any, filters on his YouTube channel – based on what was posted Friday.

The prime minister has said he will answer the YouTube questions Tuesday.

Ignore the opinion writing and obvious corrosive slant on the wire service for a moment and consider Blanchfield’s barometer on YouTube participation.

Some facts from the YouTube Q&A:
At the time of this writing, the Prime Minister’s interview received:
1,897 ratings

as for the participation:
170,000 votes were received for almost 1,800 questions submitted according to Google’s Public Policy Blog.

We expect fact from our news reporters and opinion from our columnists. Of course, at some point, 69 people had weighed in (also true: at some point just one person had weighed in). But let’s make sure facts are relevant. Blanchfield’s article suggests the PM YouTube experiment had underwhelmed. According to the raw metrics, this is not true.