Thursday, December 13, 2012

Communication fail. Stefan Baranski, Premier Redford's Director of Strategic Communications, shows us how it's done.

I am not a paid professional communications person but it seems to me that having a Director of Strategic Communications who selectively edits someones tweet without informing anyone they did so and then flat out lies about the original tweet being deleted after being called out on their hackery, is not exactly the best way to add credibility to either the person, their position, or the communications of the premier and the government.

Stefan Baranski. Imported from Ontario as part of Redford's doubling of her communications staff help to help spin communicate with Albertans got himself in some hot water on Wednesday evening when he posted a heavily edited tweet (without notifying anyone that it was edited) from Danielle Smith and then subsequently lied about the original tweet from Smith having been deleted.

Original tweet from Danielle Smith: (Dec 12, 2012 6:43am)
"Alberta is not a democracy, it's an oligarchy. Cooper: Redford spending spree just tip of the iceberg #ableg #wrp"

Note the linked article written by Barry Cooper in the Calgary Herald where Cooper uses the word "oligarchy" at least 2 times.

Baranski's tweet: (Dec 12, 2012 7:22pm)
"In other words Albertans: your votes didn't count. RT @ElectDanielle: Alberta is not a democracy, it's an oligarchy. #ableg #wrp #pcaa"

Note that it was posted as a "RT" (re-tweet) and not a MT (modified tweet) and of course that he purposely edited out any mention of the linked article where 'oligarchy' came from. Also note the added #pcaa hashtag to the tweet which was not there in the original.  

Now before someone claims that this is nothing more than a twitter etiquette thing that Baranski may not be familiar with; I refer you to his nearly 6000 tweets and his billing as "social media expert".  Not many social media experts or even people who have used twitter for more than a week would make such an obvious mistake; but than again this was not a simple mistake, it was a deliberate smear attempt.

Making it worse with a lie: After being called out for the obvious manipulation of Smith's original tweet he took it a step further by wrongly claiming, twice, that Smith had deleted the original tweet.

( A tweet which he had just found and edited for the smear and which is linked to above and remains on Danielle Smith's twitter account)

Dec 12, 2012 7:31pm@ireneerutema Since deleted it seems!

Dec 12, 2012 7:33pm: .@mattsolberg Why did she delete the tweet then? #oops #GetSolbergSomeCommsLessons #pointlesshashtags

You have to love the arrogance of that last tweet where he adds the 'Get Solberg Some Comms Lessons' tag to his own tweet which itself is a flat out lie made in response to his other tweet which was an edited smear attempt.

But he is a paid professional and I am a part time blogger, so what would I know about the world of professional communications, the truth, or credibility of comms people and how that effects the communications of the organizations which they serve.

Dec 15th update: Rob Harvie writes his thoughts here and makes a great point about how ridiculous the notion is that Danielle Smith doesn't believe that Alberta is a democracy having just recently gone through an election herself were she was elected MLA and became leader of the opposition. Communication fail.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Premier Redford in conflict of interest, but not for the reasons you may think.

There has been a lot already written in the media on the subject of Alison Redford and conflict of interest; but all of the stories seem to approach the issue from the exact same perspective.Whether Alison Redford's actions as Justice Minister in the tobacco litigation case were a conflict of interest and how/if those actions could benefit her ex-husband whose law firm (JSS) was chosen.

And as per usual the media missed it again.

It is not so much Redford's decision that was the problem it was that she was involved in the selection process at all. Quite simply she should have recused herself the second that she learned that JSS was involved.

A true no win situation:

We all know the kerfuffle caused by what Redford did; the optics are simply terrible and for that reason alone she should have never been involved in the process as the perception of a conflict of interest was very much real.

But what about what Redford did not do?

Imagine what could have happened had Redford perused another of her options and disqualified her ex-husbands firm? While it would eliminate the 'benefit' issue from the equation it adds another as it could be argued that she had made such a decision because of animosity towards her ex! Which is not an uncommon thing when ex-spouses are involved and it would not be a stretch to suggest that a smart group of lawyers, say JSS for example, could easily make such a case opening up the possibility of a damage suit against the Alberta Government for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars ( remember this could be worth billions to the winning firm) all because Redford could not see the obvious conflicts and stepped away from being involved in the process.

Do you think there is a judge in Canada who would ever sit in decision over an ex-spouse for something even as simple as a parking ticket?  Or if in the remote chance that something like that did happen that any such decision could ever withstand an appeal?   Not a chance.

The conflict of interest was not Redford's particular decision to award JSS the contract, although that itself is arguable, it was that she was involved in the process to begin with.  As Justice Minister, Redford's 'interests' were not merely those of herself but also those of Alberta; not only should she have voluntarily recused herself, I believe that she was obligated to do so.


A few comments on the spin notion that Redford did not make the decision to go with JSS.

Based on documents found at the CBC it is quite clear that she did make the decision and unless somebody has a reasonable explanation as to how an acceptance letter and 2 separate rejection letters were sent out to the law firms involved BEFORE the government claims that the decision as to which firm to go with was made, only those that choose not to face reality are going to buy Redford's or the governments story. It simply doesn't make sense.

They may try to parse words and try to use tight legal definitions but to say that the 'decision' was not made until the contract was signed would be the same as if the Edmonton Oilers claimed that they didn't actually draft Taylor Hall until his contract was signed. Total nonsense.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Premier Redford digs herself deeper. Denies she's lied minutes after those lies were exposed

Alison Redford stood before the cameras earlier today and said that she stands behind her words yesterday that it was not her who made the decision as to which legal firm would get the contract for litigation against the tobacco industry. The only problem is that minutes before government documents were revealed that indeed prove that it was Alison Redford who did make that decision.

Link to Premier Redford's brief presser ( not the first one that was cancelled 17 minutes before it was scheduled, but another one that she was forced to hold due to the criticism for cancelling the first: Media availability Nov 29.

Link to CBC article with the damning documents ( be sure to read all 7 pages at bottom of page) CBC Story.

Dec. 21, 2010 email: "Hi Barb, can you confirm with Jeff and modify as needed — get the letters to the losers confirmed and ready to go. You can sign for me. Speak to Lorne about the winners and the timing with the letters."

Dec. 22, 2010, departmental email states: "Attached are the scanned signed memos that have just been emailed to the unsuccessful candidates." Those memos contained a letter signed by Sprague titled, "Letter to unsuccessful party," which states: "I regret to advise that your proposal was not successful."

Jan. 13, 2011, briefing note, assistant deputy minister Sprague states: "Shortly before Christmas, Minister Redford selected the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers (the Jensen consortium)."

A July 5, 2012, email from Justice spokesman Dan Laville to CBC states:
"On December 14, 2010, then justice minister Alison Redford determined that TRL consortium [sic] provided the best 'made in Alberta' litigation plan. The decision was communicated to the consortiums and law firm shortly thereafter."

Be sure to read see copies of the originals at the CBC article linked to above!  7 pages that prove Alison Redford lied and misled the Alberta Legislature and all Albertans.

If Redford would have simply went with the 'this was not a conflict of interest' argument she might have been fine, but she didn't do that. Instead she chose to go with the 'I didn't make the decision' route and now it is coming back to bite her and forever taint her in the eyes of Albertans.

This is going to stick.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The apology, Wildrose AGM, prostate health and more.

An end of the week roundup of what I have been following in the political world over the last few days.

The apology:

I don't know; maybe it is because I have long held the belief that an apology should come from the person and not their handlers ,but somehow I am just not feeling it.  It was nothing other than pure political theater that exposes just how fake his self titled 'non divisive' campaign really is.

Deer in the headlights look as Trudeau is asked not about his Alberta bashing but why he said Canada would be better off with a Quebec PM.   (Watch it yourself: approx 4 min mark of this CBC video)

Linda Duncan said it well: "He (Trudeau) insulted ALL Albertans, not just the conservative Albertans."      Yes, that Linda Duncan.

The media reaction has been more interesting including a CTV British Columbia reporter tweeting her 'luv'.

This video of perhaps the most unprofessional thing I have seen from the Parliamentary Press Gallery. How Jason Kenney ever kept his cool I will never know.  (If you have not seen this video it is a must watch)

The media's bizarre reaction to SUN News, who broke the story, is perhaps the most confusing to understand. The press seem to be pissed off at Sun News for what essentially is that the rest of them didn't do their damn jobs and find this 2 yrs ago when it was hidden away was shown on television! The failure is theirs, not Sun news' for doing their job and finding something that was hidden in plain sight. But as Dean from BC Blue mentioned over the weekend: "You would first have to believe that the Quebec media thought anything wrong with what Trudeau said."    Ha!

This certainly is a lot of fuss to make over an "out of context smear". Isn't it?

The Wildrose AGM:

Posting couple of links on this but for a very good overview Cory Morgan does a great job here.

And from the 'professional media', who were actually allowed into the Wildrose AGM as opposed to the recent PC AGM, we have:

Don Braid in the Herald 

and Rick Bell in the SUN for your reading pleasure.

I should note that while I was at the Wildrose AGM, that it was only for a brief couple of hours late on Saturday afternoon. Contrary to popular belief I am not a card carrying member and only dropped in after learning that well known NDP activist Lou Arab was going to be in attendance. If they let Lou in, they would let anyone in. Okay, that is not 100% true. I did check with an organizer and got green light to attend.

It was nice meeting up with a few old friends, meeting new ones and putting faces to names of many others. The future of the Wildrose looks bright.

Which brings me to prostate health.

Lou was sporting quite the dapper mustache which reminded me that November is prostate awareness month, also known as Movember, please take the time to make a donation for a very worthy cause.

The Argonauts win the 100th Grey Cup.

I knew the horse wanted in. I just didn't know that 'in' meant in as the Stampeder offensive coordinator.

Enjoy your week.

Late additions:

Rob Ford loses his job as Toronto mayor.

Mark Carney gets a new one as head of the Bank of England.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk swings and misses on illegal donation allegation.

Alberta Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk was back in the muck yesterday as he put forward what could only be called a incredibly weak allegation that Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson attempted to solicit funds from Olds College.

So weak in fact is the allegation that he isn't even going to follow his own advice which he offered numerous times over the past week while Premier Redford dodged questions answering questions in the Alberta Legislature to take any such allegations of wrong doing to the Chief Electoral Officer so they may be properly dealt with. Something you know that he would do in a heartbeat if there was something actually there. In fact in an interview with the Edmonton Journal Lukaszuk changed his tune on the original solicitation allegation and  instead went with an even weaker one that 'Anderson made use of government resources for his partisan activities, since the college office staff who handled the letter are paid with taxpayer dollars.'  For a guy trying hard to deflect from the at least 50 known incidences where the PC party received possibly hundreds of thousands in illegal contributions, worrying about the cost of handling a single letter, which they must do multiple times each and every day at any college, is more than just weak it is completely asinine.

Let's look at the evidence.

The front page of the letter sent to Tom Thompson, President of Olds College and a constituent of Anderson's, at his office. Note the salutation is addressed to an individual 'Dear Tom' and not 'Dear Olds College', the organization which Thompson works for, as that would be soliciting funds from a prohibited organization and probably be in violation of the Election Act.
Now the issue has been raised that the letter should have been mailed to Thompson's home and not his office but that is a red herring because if the allegation is soliciting funds from a prohibited organization, does it really matter if the President of that organization receives the letter at his office or his home? It is addressed to a person who happens to be President no matter where they may open up that letter and the 'solicitation' certainly doesn't change depending on the location it was opened either. 

Also in this day and age of cell phones how easy is it to obtain someones home address if they are not listed in the phone book or in the case of municipal politicians, towns and cities also being a prohibited group, may be unlisted for security or many other reasons. It is simply easier to obtain someones work address than it is their home address but the bottom line is that the invitation was sent to an individual and not the prohibited organization for which they may work. If it ever does become illegal to send out invitations to people based on their employer, I suspect that future Premier's dinners will become very lonely affairs.

But all of this is really moot because included in this so called evidence is a copy of an internal memo from an Olds College VP who was forwarded the letter to review and which reads in part as follows (highlighting mine)

Thanks for your January 18, 2012 forwarding of correspondence from the MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere to President Thompson for advice as to dispensation or response.

This letter is an invitation to purchase and attend a partisan fundraising event. We are obliged to adhere to Olds College Administrative policy A24 (attached) which precludes Olds College employees from using College monies to attend. Tom ought not to attend the expense of the College but would be free to do so at his own expense.

And there you go. Per Olds College policy and Alberta Elections law President Thompson may attend as long as it is his money used and not that of Olds College. So much for Lukaszuk's smoking gun when it is that very gun that shoots down his own allegation and clears both Thompson and Anderson of wrongdoing.

Nice try Thomas but there really is nothing here. Now if you do want to see an example of a political party actively seeking donations from colleges and universities I suggest you read the following linked story from Charles Rusnell of the CBC to see how the pros solicit tens of thousands.


and be sure to check out all the internal links such as this one, being that you seem to be such a fan of letters, documents and such.  It is a real eye opener and you may recognize a few name too.