Monday 1 November 2010

View From the Other Side - Part 6.1

This comment was left by an anonymous reader regarding the Part 6 post. I felt it deserved an expanded response.

Jane, as one who was at the PC AGM and heard that same line from the Premier, you omitted the fact that he emphasized that there is existing legislation that prohibits the imposition of a sales tax without the issue going to a referendum. He also stated the obvious when he expressed doubts that Albertans would approve such a tax in that vote.

I don't think that the facts and a full disclosure of the context of his comment left any confusion at all.

In this case the context is neither here nor there. If the Premier had stayed true to his earlier comments his response would have sounded something like this;

“This is an item that will be discussed and voted on by our members later today and I prefer not to influence those discussions. I would like to point out though, that here in Alberta we have legislation that prohibits the imposition of a sales tax without the issue going to a referendum. If our members are in favor of this our government will insure it comes forward on referendum.”

In my opinion the whole tax discussion from MLA Doug Griffiths and Premier Ed Stelmach over the past days was part of their communications strategy. I can imagine how the conversation went.

Strategist: “Ed we need to get some positive headlines that we resonate with the average Albertan.”

Ed: “Okay. Do you have something in mind?”

Strategist: “Yes. We will float a PST tax balloon.”

Ed: “Didn’t we already do this?”

Strategist: “Yes. And it worked, but we didn’t get nearly enough mileage out of it. It only got headlines from the CBC.”

Ed: “I don’t think I can ask Ted to go down that road again.”

Strategist: “You’re right. How about his PA, Doug Griffiths?”

Ed: “Hmmm. Yes. Yes, I like that. He’s due to take one for the team, him and his fiscal five or four or whatever that frat house thing was. BIG mistake, boys. They were trying to copy me you know. I was part of the "deep-six"; do you remember that? We had the craziest hospitality suite at the ‘93 convention.”
* hardy laugh *
"And we had these great little lapel pins. They were green bow ties. Where did that go?”
* Premier goes off in search of his old lapel pin. *

This time round it did play out much better for them. I’m not sure if the timing of it coming just prior to the AGM was planned, but it did afford them much better coverage than the sleepy days of summer.

The sad reality about motions that do pass at the PC AGM’s is that most will never see the light of day as legislation. And even though they are democratically voted on, they can be vetoed by the Premier.

Case in point:

A resolution introduced at the Alberta Progressive Conservative Convention on Saturday argued that sophisticated and well-financed environmental organizations and special interest groups are having success in attempts to redefine Alberta's image in "extremely negative" terms.
It says Alberta's efforts to counter "nefarious public relation campaigns" have been ineffective and both industry and government must work together to come up with a new strategy to turn the tide of public opinion.

"Unless you've been living on another planet you've probably heard all sorts of comments about Alberta's oilsands industry which is really part of the backbone of our economy. We think it's very important to engage industry and government," said Stephen Hope, a delegate from the riding of Calgary Shaw who introduced the resolution.

"The purpose of the collaboration is to create and develop a new and effective image of the province that will be the basis of countering these smear campaigns."

The vote in favour of the resolution was unanimous.

But Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach told delegates he is satisfied with the strategy currently in place and that he has no intention of replying in kind to the negative campaigns.

The motions didn't say anything about launching an "in kind" campaign. Likely those are his own words and thoughts. But they did clearly express they aren't satisfied with the current strategy. Here is the full wording of the resolution:

Whereas, highly sophisticated and well financed environmental organizations and special interest groups in Alberta and beyond, including Greenpeace, Corporate Ethic International and Forest Ethics, are currently experiencing success in their attempts to redefine Alberta’s image in extremely negative terms or worse for the purpose of denigrating the important development of Alberta’s oil sands. It is apparent that the Government of Alberta’s recent branding efforts (”Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve”) are ineffective in countering such elaborate smear campaigns that are intended to damage Alberta’s economy now and into the future; therefore

Be it resolved that, the Government of Alberta through appropriate government departments collaborates with representative organizations of Alberta industries whose businesses that have been or are being harmfully affected through nefarious public relation campaigns smearing the image of Alberta. The purpose of the collaboration is to create and develop a new and effective image of the province that will be the basis of countering the smear campaigns. Additionally, external experts in the field of communications relative to this issue should be engaged to assist in the process. Ideally, Alberta’s new image should be multi-dimensional and any copy lines simple but Memorable; and therefore

Be it further resolved that, such collaboration begins immediately to counter inaccurate and misleading information, false statements and dubious claims portraying Alberta’s environmental record in the worse possible manner.

It’s refreshing to see that even PC members don’t like our new cumbersome branding. In theory the “big tent” party is a cross section representative of Albertans, yet many of the ideas coming out of this weekend will fall on deaf years.