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Shining the light on the political ivory towers

Posted on November 15, 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

By Ryan Dahlman

On the surface, politicians act like they’re so out-of-touch and perhaps they know that. Maybe that is why they don’t provide much in the way of interviews. 

The common preselection is that they lvory towers. Never speak to the common serfs. Doesn’t understand the daily struggles of those who struggle to survive financially, physically and mentally. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Never had to struggle financially a day in life. Others like Conservative leader Pierre Poilevre and former premier Jason Kenney (where is he now?) are career politicians and haven’t worked as agriculture workers, store clerks 

Chrystia Freeland, the federal government’s finance minister, who is from northern Alberta community Peace River but has worked all over the world as a journalist in places such as the Ukraine, Moscow, and is highly educated with a master’s from Oxford in Slavic studies and is a Rhodes school.

She knows poor economic conditions and how families can struggle. 

So what would make someone say the following during an interview on Global TV’s political affairs show? Arrogance, lost touch?

“I personally, as a mother and wife, look carefully at my credit card bill once a month,” she said. “And last Sunday, I said to the kids, ‘you’re older now. You don’t watch Disney anymore. Let’s cut that Disney+ subscription. So we cut it. It’s only $13.99 a month that we’re saving, but every little bit helps.”

The off-the-cuff remark which came from this intellectually-brilliant, six-figured salary politician was followed up by a contrite statement, yet not an apology. 

“I want to start by recognizing that I am a very privileged person, for sure, like other federal elected leaders. I am paid a very significant salary. I know that puts me in a privileged position. I really recognize that it is not people like me people who have my really good fortune that are struggling the most in Canada today. The people who are struggling in Canada who are struggling, they are not federal politicians.”

She then went on to say because of high prices, it is that recognition which shaped so much of the Liberals’ fall economic statement.

Okay so basically she’s saying “we know you are suffering but for whatever reason we aren’t doing about it.”

Politicians are becoming so out of touch that is why they are becoming less likely to do interviews unless it is in a very controlled setting (amongst supporters, limited or no questions from journalists). They are just live juke box press release sponsors, no better than live, talking-head infomercials. 

Premier Danielle Smith won the Brooks-Medicine Hat constituency Nov. 8 with about 54 per cent of the vote. No interviews after. None. She won. 

As a former member of the Calgary Herald editorial board she knows saying the wrong thing can be embarrassing. Look at Freeland, the statement that there’s no such thing as bad publicity no longer applies in this era. With the amount of handlers, marketing strategists and bureaucrats thinking want they want the star of their political show to say and do 

When Smith makes a statement it is rehearsed, strategized and she know what effect it will have in the public. However it can’t be that controlled like a one on one interview with a reporter. You never know what comments will be taken wrong and how things can be perceived by the public and what can be pounced on by the media. 

Much like Trudeau, when controlled and rehearsed, Smith sounds smart, is charming and believable. Get them out of their element and ask what they are really thinking, Freeland found out the results can equal a mission of damage control for the handlers and public relations people. 

Ontario premier Doug Ford has learned this strategy: don’t say anything but a prepared statement and you can generally stay out of trouble. 

Makes for safe, albeit boring and frustrating politics. Learn all about the positive aspects to policies and then find out the ramifications later. 

It’s no longer a battle of personality and political policies, it is all about the public relations handlers — the unsung heroes of boring politics. 

Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of the 40-Mile Commentator, Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West

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