Com­mu­ni­ca­tions war

The Compass - - OPINION -

Craig West­cott’s de­ci­sion to take on a job as di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als re­ceived a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion for two rea­sons.

First, West­cott is a jour­nal­ist him­self. This alone may seem like noth­ing out of the or­di­nary. Jour­nal­ists of­ten move on to govern­ment po­si­tions, typ­i­cally in the form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion roles within de­part­ments, serv­ing as li­aisons with the me­dia and other par­ties.

What makes West­cott’s sit­u­a­tion in­ter­est­ing is that he has also pre­vi­ously run in a fed­eral elec­tion for the Con­ser­va­tive Party, and has been a fre­quent critic of Premier Danny Wil­liams in his writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions, most re­cently in his role as edi­tor of the Busi­ness Post and the Ir­ish Loop Post.

He ran for the Con­ser­va­tives when the premier’s Any­thing But Con­ser­va­tive cam­paign was in full swing, and crit­i­cized Premier Wil­liams’ move to iso­late the prov­ince from the even­tual gov­ern­ing party. Since tak­ing on the new job, West­cott has left his po­si­tion at both pa­pers, though he re­mains the owner.

He has been a thorn in the premier’s side, and Wil­liams’ govern­ment was ready to pounce on West­cott as soon as word got out about the hir­ing.

So, we now get to the sec­ond rea­son West­cott’s hir­ing was big news.

The ‘joke’ West­cott made about the premier in an email sent to his di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Fe­bru­ary 2009 is in poor taste. Kevin O’Brien, the newly minted min­is­ter of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs, first men­tioned it on VOCM Open Line.

Whether or not ask­ing if the premier was bipo­lar or had syphilis was in­tended to be a joke, West­cott should have known how it would be taken by the premier’s of­fice. As well as any­body else, West­cott should know the premier has a short tem­per, and is not one to be taken lightly.

The re­lease of West­cott’s e-mail has turned his hir­ing into a much big­ger news story than it was ever in­tended to be. These sorts of hir­ings usu­ally only at­tract the at­ten­tion of peo­ple who are po­lit­i­cal junkies, but now West­cott may be dam­ag­ing the Lib­eral party’s im­age with vot­ers.

Now is not the time for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives to at­tack Lib­eral leader Yvonne Jones as she re­cov­ers from breast can­cer surgery, so the PCs will take shots wher­ever they can. This blow struck.

As time passes, most peo­ple will move on from the West­cott con­tro­versy, and then he will get a chance to slink be­hind the scenes to help the Lib­er­als. Maybe he will per­form well in the long run. How­ever, as first weeks on the job go, his is just about as rough as it gets.

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