Stephen Harper - Control Freak

/ Wednesday, June 9, 2010 /
With our PM there's never any shortage of adjectives to hurl his way. He makes it easy, heck he even inspired us at NMPCanada to create two new ones just for him: assalogue and sanctihole. Today however, we're going to stick to words that are already in the English dictionary.

A story being reported by the Globe and Mail describes his obsession with Tory message control, and how that reaches ...around the world in an attempt to orchestrate virtually every public utterance by seasoned diplomats from Britain to Bangladesh, a Canadian Press investigation concludes.

The Conservative government scripts every event using a communication tool they call the Message Event Proposal (MEP's). The MEPs have blurred the time-honoured separation of non-partisan public servants and political staffers and sidelined seasoned government communicators, sapping morale across the civil service.

It's far worse than just uninspired photo-ops. Quoting Jonathan Rose, a political scientist from Queen's University, “You've got bureaucrats who are doing the government's partisan work and also political staffers who are doing bureaucrats' work. So there's this huge blurring of lines between the two.” Those are lines that the government has no right to blur.

Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail describes Tory message control this way: The MEP describes the request/event, the likely audience, the desired headline or sound bite, the appropriate backdrop, the best photograph or camera angle, the appropriate clothing, the accompanying materials, and so on. Nothing, if possible, is left to chance by this spin machine, which is why so many of Stephen Harper’s events, and those of other ministers, have such a lifeless, deadening sense about them.

There's something inherently sad about these tactics that prevent Canadians from ever getting an honest look at who is governing and what it is they believe as opposed to what they purport. It's also hard to read about this and not think that Harper and the Conservatives have co-opted the Republican playbook which has been been all about message control from the top down - and look where that has brought American public discourse.




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