Tuesday, July 01, 2008

MicroManagement's Limits

I have said it before, but Micromanagement has serious limits. The Conservative approach to Communications and Information management takes things to new depths.

In the 6th-floor office of a nondescript building sit the gatekeepers, the bureaucrats who decide what Canadians learn about the workings of their government.

Questions on the hot issues of the day all get funnelled through this office, the "communications and consultations" unit of the Privy Council Office, housed in the Blackburn building that fronts the Sparks St. pedestrian mall.

Throughout the government, it's known simply as "downtown," the place where decisions are made on who speaks on issues and what they say. In the Conservative government's clampdown on communications, this is Ground Zero.

Now, I've expressed my concerns over Harper's micromanaging style and how he has clamped down on any communications at all before.

But, there's another side to this, one that the HarperCon$ don't understand - namely how it affects their own hobby horse programs:

Two big policy pushes by the Tories in recent weeks – sweeping immigration reforms and a "Canada First" defence plan – have been badly hobbled by communications blunders. In both cases, the initiatives were unveiled with few details.

In the case of the Canada First strategy, an aide to Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the government has a "very detailed" – but secret – plan.

If you think it's bad now, it's going to get worse:

The clampdown could get worse. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser recently revealed that the government is proposing a new policy that would require all communications "products" to be vetted by the Privy Council Office.

One government official said the new rules would formally enshrine in policy the unwritten rule that now exists.

"The screws are being tightened bit by bit. It's gotten very extreme in the last six months. Just more and more delays, more and more control over things, less and less things getting approved," the official said.

Not only does Harper's non-communication approach raise serious questions about what he and his cronies are up to, but it also is behind their inability to convince anyone of the merits of their programs.

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