It sounds strange now, but Turner actually had collegial relationships with members of other parties. In fact, as Paul Litt notes, Turner once saved John Diefenbaker from drowning while on holiday in Barbados. With the current PM on the beach, and an opposition leader floundering in the surf, I wouldnâ€™t go out on a limb to say what would happen next.
It sounds strange to say it today, but John Turner was also a fan of the media, the same media which fitted him out with horns on the front page of a newspaper. Can anyone in Conservative Ottawa picture Stephen Harper heading out to the Black Thorn Tavern for a beer with Lawrence Martin after a hard day on the Hill? Turner used to do that kind of thing.
But the fact that there is zero camaraderie between the media and the Conservatives is insignificant compared to what the Tories have managed to do to the press. Daily contact these days means getting an email from the PMO with suggestions for interviews you might want to do â€“ the PMO as line-up editor. The prime minister holds press conferences whenever Halleyâ€™s Comet appears, muzzles his ministers, and forces every level of the public service to seek permission to speak. And when they do, a Tory staffer is often listening in, as Liberal MP Wayne Easter recently told me. Government is as transparent as a slab of granite. As for the media, their questions are not only limited, they are usually ignored. And despite all that, the government gets a remarkably easy ride from a profession it has done its best to marginalize.
This gaffe rivals John Turner in 1984
Take a look at both Barack Obama and Stephen Harperâ€™s Flickr accounts. I was absolutely amazed at the difference in them. The Whitehouse acct is full of thousands and thousands of photos of Obama in a variety of contexts. The Situation Room, playing with his kids, playing practical jokes, preparing to confront the GOP, shooting hoops, skipping rocks, meeting world leaders, talking with national security advisors, and engaging with people. Stephen Harper doesnâ€™t even have a pro account and the photos that are posted there are of political fundraisers and funding announcements.
Now if I am Stephen Harper (and I am not, heâ€™s a tactical genius while I can tell you what Reggie Lemelinâ€™s GAA was in 1982 off the top of my head), I would be telling my official photographer to be uploading everything to Flickr (and use a version of Flickrâ€™s Whitehouse inspired photo license) From breakfast with Laureen, to my walking my kids to school, giving John Baird parking money (in case you forgot, Baird often escorts Laureen Harper to cultural events that Stephen doesnâ€™t like attending) cabinet meetings, impromptu road hockey games, buying a burger at a Senators game, visiting with voters, having lunch with the Obamas, practising with his band in the basement of 24 Sussex, playing golf with John Turnerâ€¦ whatever it is, I would use it to show Canadians who he really is. I donâ€™t know if you remember this classic bit he did with Rick Mercerâ€¦
Some more of this and less attack ads could actually remind Canadians that he is likeable. Of course I realize he may be already doing this and deep down he is an unengaged partisan who works by himself late at night in his office (according to the campaign ads). I never said my idea was without risk.
Jason Kottke is writing about how the new Whitehouse.gov website doesnâ€™t archive old Presidential websites. As I have written about before, the Canadian Prime Ministerâ€™s website does just as poor job of preserving the archives of Canadian Prime Ministers.
While I was looking around online to see if I could find the archives of the website, I found some of the websites of some former prime ministers online. The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin and Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney both have websites. The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark has a website but he uses his wives domain name (insert tired old joke here). I canâ€™t find a website for Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, Rt. Hon. John Turner or most alarmingly for three term Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien. Now Library and Archives Canada has a pretty good website but it doesnâ€™t have the electronic archives of the website. In addition to the removal from public circulation of a lot of photos, speeches, and history, it turns Wikipedia entries into the more of less the keeper of Canadian history.
As I have said before, how hard can it be to keep chretien.pm.gc.ca, martin.pm.gc.ca, or even diefenbaker.pm.gc.ca with their own archives being released to Flickrâ€™s Common project? When you look at the coverage and excitement over the National Film Board opening up their archives, I think the creation of a permanent historical archives of the men and women that led Canada would add something to Canadaâ€™s story as well.