Here are my thoughts on how Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole handled media relations in 2021.
There likely was nobody who was in the news in Alberta more than Jason Kenney in 2021.
In a blog earlier this year, I wrote about him trying too hard. He was in the media too often and commenting on too many issues. It was almost as if he felt if he just kept talking, all his problems would go away.
The opposite seemed to happen.
Kenney likely pulled the biggest media gaffe of the year with his ill-fated June news conference where he announced the Open For Summer plan and basically said we could start going back to normal in Alberta. About the only time Kenney wasn’t in the news every other day was when he disappeared on a holiday in August, as COVID case counts went through the roof in Alberta and nobody in his government did anything to try to reverse the trend.
Giving Kenney a report card mark for the year isn’t easy. I know many won’t agree with me, but he actually answers questions quite well. By the way, my marks have nothing to do with whether I like these leaders as politicians - just how they respond to questions.
Kenney doesn’t avoid answering tough questions like some federal leaders do far too often (see below) and his responses usually get to the question the reporter was asking.
He loses marks in a couple of areas. To start with, most of his answers were far too long. I put a clock on a few news conferences and some of his answers lasted for over three minutes. That’s far too long to effectively communicate through the media. Kenney seemed to believe the more talking points he could throw against the wall would increase the odds that something would stick. That’s not the way it works. In some cases, less is more.
As the year went on, Kenney’s credibility took a hit several times because some of the Premier’s answers were….shall we say….less than totally honest. He loses marks in the honesty column.
Final 2021 Media Mark: C-
I’ve been critical of Trudeau’s media work in the past and why not? Remember when we was asked what his family had been doing to help with single use plastics and he mumbled his way through an answer that included “drink box - water bottles sort of thing”?
I have felt for a long time that Trudeau simply doesn’t take enough time preparing to speak to the media. As a result, he doesn’t know what he’s going to say before he says it and that’s a key point for anyone to understand when they’re speaking to the news media, or just communicating in general.
Trudeau usually fills his responses to questions with a bevy of “umms”, “errs” and “ahhs” because he isn’t sure what he’s going to say next. However, I believe he did better in this area in 2021. Perhaps he started taking more time preparing to meet the media? If he did, it shows.
Although he did better in answering questions, he still loses major points for totally ignoring questions from reporters at times. This happened far too often in during the election campaign. He was asked to talk about a controversial issue that was making the Liberals look bad and his response basically was “Everyone should get vaccinated.”
Final 2021 Media Mark: C
Erin O’Toole answers questions from the media quite well – that is, when he actually answers questions.
O’Toole speaks well when answering questions. He has a good pace to his responses and often talks with a tiny smile in his voice, which I like.
The problem is, he too often ignores questions from reporters and gives the answer he wants to give, regardless of what he’s being asked. We saw this far too often in the federal election campaign. I wrote about the worst case in this blog from a week or so before the vote.
I understand O’Toole often can’t say what he wants to say about controversial issues like vaccinations because he doesn’t want to offend the right wing of the party, but the end result is, he avoids too many questions to be given a passing grade.
Final 2021 Media Mark: D
On Next Week's Show.....
On next week's blog, I'll be looking back on my Top 10 Blogs of 2021. I always look forward to taking a look back at my blog numbers to see which blogs were the most widely read from the year and then list them and provide a few thoughts on each one.