I’ve tried two or three times to write a post on how cool Steven Harper was last week in ditching his press junket and divert his private jet to pick up Canadian evacuees but I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a tough one.
So I thought I’d leave it to Bob Reid, Veritas’s principle media coach, to take it home.
TOUCHDOWN – Air Harper to the Rescue.
I know it was last week’s big story, but we’re on our bi-weekly summer schedule here at TD&F, so bear with me … Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s move to pick up Canadian evacuees from Lebanon on his way home from the G-8 summit in France was Touchdown-worthy for a number of reasons.
First, it negated any potential criticism that could have resulted had he used the Canadian Forces’ Airbus jet to come home directly from France as planned – i.e. he’s being selfish, using a large government airliner for his own comfort at a time when it was desperately needed for humanitarian purposes.
Second, he headed off another potentially negative scenario – sending the plane but making his own way home – denying critics the chance to say he ducked any criticism from angry evacuees. To the contrary, he made sure he spoke to as many passengers on the mercy flight as he could, regardless of whether they were happy with the government’s handling of the situation or not.
And finally, the gesture and resulting coverage went a long way toward “changing the channel” as it’s known in political communications terms. Prior to the announcement of the special flight, coverage of the evacuation was highlighted by stories of disorganization, confusion and long waits in the withering sun. Harper’s move didn’t completely eliminate that angle, but it did ensure that his gesture will be one of the lasting memories of what the government did to help in a time of crisis for Canadians abroad.
Thanks to Bob and the Veritas team for letting me use that.