Given what we’ve seen from his ham-handed communications brain trust so far, it’s hard to imagine that Ed Stelmach’s television message tonight will do much to burnish the premier’s tarnished reputation.
Having little else to do as I wait at home for a crew of tradesmen to turn up and repair my front door this morning, I’ve been Googling public-relations advice on how to fix a ruined reputation before it goes down in flames. (My time might have been better spent figuring out how to repair a ruined door, but never mind.)
It can be done, the PR pros all say – but then they would, wouldn’t they? After all, they’re selling this elixir!
Be contrite, they all advise. Own up to your part in the disaster. Admit your shortcomings. If necessary, make a full confession. Ask for forgiveness. Show some emotion. (Oh yeah, and pull all the medicine bottles off the shelves – right flippin’ now! – even the ones that don’t have deadly carbon-capture gas in them!)
Yeah, right! How likely do you think it is that this premier will try that approach?
I know, I know. It worked for Ralph Klein and even a bit for Bill Clinton. (Although, in the latter case, I think a lot of folks just felt sorry for Bill because they recognized that look in his wife’s eyes.) Who couldn’t turn around and vote for Ralph after he admitted that he drank too much and promised never to throw change at homeless people ever again? Other than me, I mean.
We all know not to expect anything like this from Premier Stelmach. I’m betting – along with pretty much everyone else in the province – that he’ll admit nothing, blame the economy and assure us all that he’s got a plan. (And all the while, all over Alberta, TV viewers will be hearing a subliminal voice whispering… No plan! … No plan!)
Mr. Ed’s plan will involve more of the same, except maybe with a symbolic victim or two to stand in as scapegoats for a good swift official kick in the hind end. (“Anybody got the number for the Federation of Labour? Greenpeace?”)
Plus, he’ll show us “The Way Forward” in that patented robotic delivery that will have Albertans across the province diving for their TV remotes and heading to Fox country.
The Way Forward? What is this, Winston Churchill? Never in the field of oil resources has so much been given to so few for so little? Well, Mr. Stelmach’s PR braniacs have been working on this for weeks, so if it’s all for naught, they’ll have no recourse but to … round up the usual suspects.
Columnist Don Braid reported this morning in the Calgary Herald that the Conservatives’ private polls “aren’t much better” than the two that aroused my skepticism yesterday.
If that’s true, don’t expect tonight’s performance to arrest the slide.
The premier’s message will play at 6:40 p.m. tonight on CTV, 7 p.m. on Access. It will also be available on line at alberta.ca for those whose spouses and children won’t give up the TV remote.