PMO staff were wise to deal with moving-expense issue quickly


Sept. 23, 2016 4:12 PM

TORONTO—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Chief of staff Katie Telford and principal secretary Gerald Butts offered an explanation about the exorbitant relocation reimbursements allocated to them, admitting that even they did not feel comfortable with the details.

What is the issue all about and how did they cope with it?

First they offered the same explanation Sen. Mike Duffy gave, meaning that they did nothing wrong because they followed the rules. The judge said that Duffy was right. Still, he had to go through a media and Liberal abuse for years.

Second, they took corrective action only after they were caught by the opposition. There is always the doubt about what they would have done if the Conservatives had not caught them with the hands in the cookie jar.

Problems in Ottawa, however, are not proportionate to the seriousness of the issue. You can be in the same amount of trouble as you mishandle $100 or $1-million. The depth of the damage is connected to the length the issue will be in the media. This means that when in trouble, the first aim should be to remove the issues from the front pages and not of engaging in useless defenses like “I did not know” or, worse, “You did it too.”

The first rule in communication is “if you have to eat shit, eat it fresh.”

This is the basic difference between the Conservatives, when they were in government, and the Liberals now.

I remember the robocalls issue. The Conservatives had only to issue a statement saying: “We are not aware of any wrongdoing. If anyone in our organization did something inappropriate, we will take all immediate action. In the meantime, we are fully cooperating with police investigations.” No other comments.

Instead they decided to fight back by accusing other parties of doing the same. And the issue remained on the front page for months, feeding the beast. This is a no-win situation; at the best you will prove that you are not the only crook in town, but everybody is. Not good enough when you are in government.

The second rule in communications is to put everything on the table before opposition or media do. If you say that you made a mistake before others force you to do so, people will forgive to. They know that nobody is perfect and move on. If you apologize when others force you to, it might still be fine, but the sooner the better.

Trudeau’s Liberals just hinted at the fact that they were following the rules established by others but, immediately changed the strategy. Telford and Butts did the right thing. They gave some lame explanation but, in the end, they eat some of that stuff, offered to give some money back, apologized, and let’s move on.

Unless there is more than what has already been reported (in this case they made a huge mistake because sooner or later that will be out in the open and they will be finished) the issue is over.

2 thoughts on “PMO staff were wise to deal with moving-expense issue quickly

  1. The current government should have dedicated staff scrutinizing all expense claims to make sure that the claims are not only legitimate but fair and also not an amount that seems extraordinarily high and may cause embarrassment to the government. Going by the guidelines just does not cut it. Common sense is required to justify the expense if required.


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