Friday, March 04, 2011

Kenney's ethnic media strategy: "They live where we need to win"

Jason Kenney and his office stepped up as the new Harper government poster children of electoral zeal yesterday. Whatever it takes seems to be the motto for advancement of their partisan self-interest...until they get caught that is:
A member of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's staff resigned hours after his boss was accused on Thursday of breaking parliamentary rules by using his MP letterhead to raise funds for a Conservative party campaign.
Using government resources for partisan reasons a no-no. Government resources belong to all of us and Kenney crossed a line here, using our tax dollars for his electoral shenanigans. He should suffer some punishment and not hide behind his staffer.

In addition to that very principal point, as a result of their fateful delivery of their Conservative ethnic paid media strategy into opposition hands, we may have gained a little bit of new political insight yesterday. (This blog post is premised on the assumption that these are not the Machiavellian geniuses they are frequently attributed to be by their friendlies.)

There's the obvious point, the time line of the "pre-writ" campaign: "The attached campaign outline appears to lay bare Conservative plans for a spring election, referring to a $378,000 "pre-writ" ethnic media buy beginning March 15 and lasting for two weeks."

There's the "us" and "them" overall ring to the presentation and the following statement that is presented as one of the document's "takeaway" lessons: "They live where we need to win." (p. 3) Reading as if Conservatives don't actually live in those communities, "they" do. A point lost on whoever wrote it and not especially endearing. Certainly not meant to be blared to the public. It makes you question just how deep Minister Kenney's much hyped success has been. Particularly when even they admit that the hype is not matching reality: "We are losing," the document says. "(But) we are losing less badly now."  

There were John Baird's comments:
"Obviously you can't solicit campaign contributions on your MP letterhead," Baird told reporters outside the House of Commons. "We're looking into the matter and we'll report back in short order."
Say what? From the wagon circlers par excellence, that's a bit of a switch. Bev Oda can somehow get away with the "not" added to a document after it had been signed by others. She's a fine Canadian and example to us all. But this gets an immediate "you can't" do that comment. Maybe one too many "kingmaker" profiles of late? The staffer resignation may be all there is to Baird's comments though in terms of immediate fallout.

There's the damage control effort from Kenney who will raise this offence with the Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner, the Board of Internal Economy. It smacks of a government trying to sweep it under the rug as quickly as possible with a view to an election. Get the thing filed so they can say it's being looked at by all the appropriate bodies. Note that the Ethics Commissioner previously declined to open a conflict of interest probe on Helena Guergis' spring letter writing incident on these grounds: "you have not provided any information indicating Ms. Guergis was acting in her capacity as a minister of state." The letter at issue here, albeit authored by the resigned staffer, may make the situation worse in Kenney's case. May. The Ethics Commissioner is notoriously toothless these days.

Then there are the very details of the strategy, the ridings targeted, the broadcasting outlets considered, the proposed ad scripts, the costs, the communities targeted...all able to be assessed by opposition parties now. They sure didn't know about the media onslaught about to occur in those ridings and appreciate this disclosure now. The knowledge will primarily help Liberals, with the ridings mentioned largely held by Liberals, including Brampton-Springdale, home of Jason Kenney's pal's candidacy ("More interesting is the connection between Ms. Dhalla’s election rival, Conservative hopeful Parm Gill, and Mr. Kenney. It is tighter than normal contact with Mr. Gill as a regular event tagalong with Mr. Kenney in the Toronto area and even accompanying him on a trip to India.")

Just another 24 hours in the Harper government's ongoing "lust to win at any cost and at any price."