Like Nigel Wright, ALL politicians & staffers do “issues management”

Click for project credits.
Click for project credits.

Such hypocrites, the lot of them, from the mainstream media and political pundits, to the opposition leaders themselves. There is near hysteria about the Duffy/Wright/Harper issue even after we know the “PM is good to go” did not mean the PM knew that Wright would be paying for Duffy’s expenses.

I mean, who among them has not “managed issues” to eliminate or reduce bad press? It used to be called “public relations.” Now, more often than not, it’s called “damage control,” “communications” or “issues management.” It’s all inter-connected.

For example:

(1) NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and his staff have been managing the “satellite office issue.” Who, for example, hasn’t heard that the spending of the $2.7 million funds used were following the rules and that they can prove it.  Now read the final paragraphs of a Kady O’Malley CBC column:

If he [Mulcair] can also provide conclusive, compelling evidence to back up his party’s claim that House administrators were fully aware of the satellite office staffing expenses, it will likely shut down any attempts by rival parties to prolong the House-mandated study by calling additional witnesses. Alternately, if the New Democrats appear to be holding back key documents….there’s a good bet that Mulcair’s appearance will do little to quell the controversy.”

Now, for those who have been following the Wright testimony this week at the Duffy trial, doesn’t that sound familiar? Except the above was said in a Parliamentary Committee hearing, not a criminal court’s proceedings.

(2) Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his staff have been managing his response to the “not yet ready” issue presented in a Tory ad. Check out this Google search page on the topic that indicates that the Liberal Party has actually put out an ad saying Trudeau “is” ready. Plus he has spoken directly to the matter himself. As well, I have seen red T-shirts with that motto on the back.

My point is that issues management is what all politicians and political staff do. Sometimes strategic plans don’t work as hoped and staffers have to be flexible enough to respond to the punches. Regardless, there is only one man on trial right now and that is Senator Mike Duffy. He is on trial because he is alleged to have expensed his PEI property as his main residence so that he could claim he was travelling while in his Ottawa home. Why he is charged with bribery because Nigel Wright paid for his $90,000 worth of expenses I simply don’t understand.

As far as Wright is concerned, however, what comes to my mind is the old saying: “no good deed goes unpunished!”

Anyway, no matter how much progressives would like it to be true, Prime Minister Harper is not on trial. In other words, the PM has done nothing wrong. For those who claim no one was fired. Actually, someone WAS fired — Nigel Wright — over the fact the PM did not know that it was he and not the Senator himself, who paid Duffy’s expenses. Actually, that is the way it usually works. Wright was the Chief of Staff so he had to take the fall for the misunderstanding. And, yes, that is all it was — a misunderstanding.

Yet, listening to the CBC’s Power and Politics tonight I swear the host Rosemary Barton (who I like) and most of the pundits (other than Rick Anderson) thought the sky was falling and, as a listener, it seemed to me, were throwing out hysterical allegations and false narratives as they went along.

The crux of the matter is that what Wright and those who worked under him in the PMO were doing in the winter of 2013 was simply issues management. Nothing more. Nothing less — regardless of the terminology used by the Defence lawyer on Duffy’s case. Just as Mulcair and Trudeau’s staff and volunteers are doing now day in and day out during this election in their campaign.

Remember that every time you see or hear Mulcair and Trudeau ranting against the PM over the $90,000 bank draft that was used to repay taxpayers.

Remember that when mainstream media journalists refer to this matter as a huge Harper scandal. It is not.

But, most of all, remember what this election is really all about, by checking out my list of “100 reasons to vote Conservative” on October 19th, 2015.

C/P Jack’s Newswatch & thanks to NewsWatchCanada for the referral.

Comparing media coverage for Senators Jim Munson & Mike Duffy

First, the similarities.

Both Senators Jim Munson and Mike Duffy were born in Atlantic Canada and are 68 years of age. Both were also former journalists, including being foreign correspondents at crucial events in history.

Jim Munson
Senator Jim Munson

Munson:

  • Was born in July of 1946 in New Brunswick.
  • In 1979 he moved from radio broadcasting to CTV, where he stayed until 2001.
  • During some of the years with CTV, he served in Beijing.
  • In fact, he was present and reported on the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989.
  • He also covered the Iran/Iraq war in the late 1990s.

In August of 2002, Munson was hired by former Liberal PM Jean Chretien to be his Director of Communications.  Just a year and a half later, two days before Chretien would retire, he appointed Munson to the Senate to represent Ottawa/Rideau Canal.

Senator Mike Duffy
Senator Mike Duffy

In Mike Duffy’s case:

  • He was born in Prince Edward Island in May of 1946.
  • He first joined the CBC’s The National in 1977 and covered Parliament Hill during the Trudeau, Clark, and Mulroney years.
  • In 1975, he also covered the fall of Vietnam and was one of the last journalists to escape before the North Vietnamese advanced into Saigon.
  • In 1988, Duffy left the CBC and joined Baton Broadcasting, hosting a Sunday morning program called “Sunday Edition” where he stayed until 1999.
  • After Baton, he moved to CTV to host the nightly politics program called “Power Play.”

On December 22, 2008, Duffy was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as the representative for PEI.

Now, the differences.

The main differences between Munson and Duffy are their political affiliations. Munson is Liberal and Duffy is Conservative. Yet, political affiliation aside, if there has ever been any major controversy about Jim Munson, I have never heard about it and nothing is listed on his Wikipedia page. What he does do, which is exemplary, however, is work for improvements to autism programs and services.

  • However, like Duffy, Munson most certainly has done Liberal partisan work in the past, as according to this Ottawa Citizen piece, he even flew on the Liberal leader’s plane. Which brings up the issue I heard in the #DuffyTrial this week — that Senators were expected to do partisan work but were not supposed to take part in election campaigns!! True or false?
  • Then, there is the fact that Munson was Liberal Senate Whip at the time of the former Senator for Manitoba, Rod Zimmer, situation. Just imagine how differently the media would have covered that scandal had Zimmer been a Harper appointee? Has former Prime Minister Martin, the PM who appointed him, for example, been held responsible for Zimmer’s behaviour?
  • As well, there is former Liberal Senator Mac Harb, who will go to trial this summer over the $231,000 in housing expenses he has already repaid. The allegations against him would have happened under Munson’s watch as Senate Whip. Yet, as with Zimmer, neither he nor former Prime Minister Jean Chretien have been held responsible in any way? At least, not that I have heard or read.

However, in terms of Munson himself, there is only this column on the CBC website that mentions him when the Justin Trudeau Liberals started posting parliamentary expenses online:

Senator Jim Munson, who lives in Ottawa, billed $103.09 for a lunch at Ottawa’s Metropolitan restaurant for two people, but gave no details about the meeting. It was his sole hospitality charge. He also charged $1,681.54 for two days of airfare, hotel and meals to attend a conference on autism in Fredericton where he gave a speech.”

  • What caught my attention was the sentence that the $103.09 was Munson’s sole hospitality charge plus his air fare for his work on autism. Amazing, actually, that his meal and travel expenses were so minor when compared to what we have heard and read about Duffy’s.
  • Does that mean Munson is paying his own Senate related meal and hospitality expenses or that, aside from his work on autism, he is not doing very much outside of Ottawa compared to other Senators? Of course, Trudeau kicked all the Senate Liberals out of caucus last year, so there is not as much partisan work going on now as there once was.

Plus, there is the fact that Munson lived in Ottawa before his appointment and his constituency is Ottawa. So, provincial residence requirements and housing expenses are a non-issue for him. Unfortunately, not so for Duffy or Harb!

The crux of the matter:

So, does the mainstream media treat Mike Duffy differently than Jim Munson? Absolutely. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps Duffy’s behaviour or reactions to criticisms have something to do with it — such as his attitude of entitlement, the extent of his expenses submitted and the fact that someone else had to pay the taxpayers back. But, how do we square that with Harb’s housing expenses which are even higher than Duffy’s?

Whatever. While political affiliation should not matter, it will be interesting to see and read if we get minimum media coverage or Duffy-like media coverage regarding Harb during his trial this summer.

It will also be interesting to see and read whether or not Chretien and his PMO staff will be blamed for Harb’s alleged failings “because he appointed him” as Harper and his PMO are blamed regarding Duffy.

At the very least, for the sake of our democracy, the potential for media bias is something the mainstream media itself should think about — very carefully!

C/P Jack’s Newswatch. Welcome NewsWatchCanada.ca readers.