Time to clear the decks

Happy New Year!
 Now that we are all rested and recovered from a bruising year, it's time to turn our attention to 2015 and what may be in the cards politically. This is the time of year when consultants, journalists and social media aficionados routinely make predictions about what the future holds. I am going to resist the temptation to forecast, as it's a mug's game, at best.
However, I think it's worthwhile to examine some of the tectonic shifts, and offer cues and tips which can provide some guidance going forward. I have done a few media interviews on the subject recently and here is one of them on Global TV's The West Block. In that interview, my emphasis was on the key question that most winning leaders have to address, namely "who speaks for me?". In elections, that means the middle class, who are the big 'get'.
Clearing the decks
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are clearing the decks for the scheduled October 2015 election. Today he took care of two headaches that were soaking up too much media coverage and damaging his brand.
Shuffling Minister Fantino
The first one - he shuffled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino out of that post where he had alienated many veterans' groups - over to Associate Minister of National Defence. This removes him from further attacks and puts him back in a portfolio where he has already served and is definitely lower profile. Mr. Harper's pick, Ontario MP Erin O'Toole, who has an Air Force background, is known as a good, solid communicator with an emotional intelligence that is critically important to the task at hand.


Harper v. Wynne Face-Off  on 'Hockey Night in Canada'
The second 'clearing of the decks' is that the Prime Minister is (finally) meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne - with whom he hasn't met in over a year. The fact that he's squeezing it in before he attends the World Junior Hockey Championship between Canada and Russia, he hopes might remind voters of the highlight of his year: his retort to Vladimir Putin, "I guess I'll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you -  you need to get out of Ukraine".
The key message underlying this move is to demonstrate that he can get along with others of a different stripe, and in Wynne's case, someone who had used him as a punching bag in that election campaign.

It's the Economy, Stupid 
He needs to turn most of the debate back to the economy, and with oil falling below $50 US, it will be good news for consumers, but bad news for the federal government's revenues (as it is for Alberta). So, even though the longer he waits to call the election, the bigger that deficit promises to be. However, Mr. Harper knows his core brand is the economy and his preferred ballot question is "who do you trust to steer the economy in difficult and dangerous times?"

The 3 D's facing Mr. Harper: 'Daily Dose of Duffy'
'3 D's for Harper: Daily Dose of Duffy'
He also needs to clear the decks as there will be a cross wind coming from the Mike Duffy trial scheduled to eat up 40 days of media coverage from April to June this year, just at the Tories need a clear pre-summer launch to the campaign. It will be a challenge for the Prime Minister to shape the media agenda in the face of the 3 D's for Mr. Harper: the 'Daily Dose of Duffy'.
What Mr. Harper needs to remind himself of, is that governments tend to get re-elected if their core theme is 'we did what we said we would do'. If that's what the voters think, then he has a good chance of being re-elected, with -at least- a minority government.

From the 'there are no silver linings in this playbook' Bill Cosby
Then there's Bill Cosby who doesn't seem to understand that when you're under fire for a series of sexual assaults, you don't go out and do a stand-up tour. Does he really need the money? Or is he just addicted to the (rapidly declining) adulation?
Kudos to Porter Airlines
In the throes of a truly sad year-end story, of a young girl who was bumped from a flight along with her father on their way to her chemotherapy treatment in Toronto, Porter Airlines moved immediately to make it right, by apologizing to her and offering free flights to her and compensation to her father.
Now that's a classic 'how to' in public relations, and, not so coincidentally, in doing the right thing after the wrong thing has been done.
Kudos to Porter for remembering that.

Now, if only some politicians could learn the same lesson!

Until next time!