Saturday, December 03, 2011

MacKay’s Air Force Needs to be Grounded

Remember the old TV comedy McHale’s Navy?

Well now we have a Conservative government production called MacKay’s Air Force, and it isn’t very funny.

In fact, if the Harper Government knows what’s good for it, it will cancel this program sooner rather than later.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Canada’s Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay, is quickly gaining a reputation for flying high on the hog.

It all started when news emerged that MacKay had used a Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter to pick him up from a lodge where he was spending a private vacation.

This was followed by other reports which indicated the Defence Minister had racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights on government Challenger jets.

Needless to say these stories were a gift to Opposition MPs who were quick to suggest MacKay was using government air craft as his own “personal limousine.”

That’s not only a good zinger, but it’s also a line of attack that could leave a serious mark on the Tory government.

Indeed, Mackay’s travel choices can hurt the Conservative Party in the eyes of voters much more than the so-called “ethical” scandals that helped bring down the government earlier this year.

Why do I say that?

Well first off many of the “ethical” issues the Opposition tried to stick on the Tories during the election just didn’t make great political weapons.

Take, for instance, the infamous “in out” scandal.

This was supposed to hurt the Conservatives because Elections Canada had charged the party with some sort of convoluted accounting shenanigans.

The story went something like this: Elections Canada charged the Conservatives with allegedly shifting $1.3 million in ad expense from its national campaign for the 2006 election to 67 individual candidates, who paid for national produced ads through bank transfers ….oops sorry dozed off there for a second.

Anyway, you see what I mean;
 you need to be a CMA to follow or even care about all the money trails laid out in the “in out” saga.

My point is an issue so complicated and so dull will never translate into an effective 30 second attack ad.
That’s why this “ethical” question was such a flop in the last federal election.

Voters just didn’t care.

On the other hand, people do care about political misbehavior when it’s easy to comprehend.

A voter who might not raise an eyebrow about his government amassing a $30 billion deficit, will be outraged if he learns $5,000 of his tax money was used to subsidize a study on erotic Norwegian literature.

And this brings us back to Mackay’s Air Force follies.

Opposition attacks on the Defence Minister’s use of government equipment will resonate with voters because, unlike the ethical stuff, everyone will understand the narrative.

It’s simple: We have an arrogant, out of touch, politician frittering away hard-earned tax dollars for his own personal comfort.

Plus the Conservatives are especially vulnerable to this sort of attack because they keep talking about the need for government austerity.

In short, MacKay can be cast not only as wasteful and arrogant, but also as a hypocrite.

The attack TV ads practically write themselves!

Cue Announcer: “You may have lost your job, you may be struggling to pay your bills, but Peter MacKay isn’t suffering. He likes to gallivant from posh vacation resorts on military helicopters. It’s time for the
Conservatives to come down to earth.”

This is why the Tories should ground MacKay and make sure other cabinet ministers don’t make similar mistakes.

Otherwise, the Conservative government might find itself in some not so friendly skies.

(This article originally appeared in the Ottawa Hill Times.)

No comments: