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.