22 August 2006

Deciphering government spin: Why the Portnoys?

1. We are in a polling period and government wants every boost in popularity it can get.

2. The Portnoy case has lots of support on Open Line, the major source of information for the Premier and the Premier's Office. Put it in the Telly, he might miss it. Crap on him on Open Line and Danny will come out of a cabinet meeting to attack you and he'll do it before you hang up the line.

3. The Portnoys are holed up in a church basement in Marystown, which means they are a big issue in an area where the Premier is especially politically vulnerable: Marystown because of his Hebron failure; Fishery Products International etc.

Add it all together and you get a provincial government intervening in an immigration case that has been hanging around for years and is no more crucial now than it was months or years ago.

But it isn't the provincial government.

Notice the number of times in every single interview that an otherwise perfectly competent minister - John Ottenheimer - mentions that the Premier will be doing this and that the Premier will be throwing his support behind it and that the Premier approved this message.

Sound odd?

It is.

Ottenheimer is just using talking points approved if not written by Danny's personal publicity department.

So we wind up with Ottenheimer saying things likes this to CBC:

"There is a political role I can play — I plan to play that role," said Ottenheimer, adding he has the full support of Premier Danny Williams to assist the Portnoy family, who have been living since last October in a church basement in Marystown.

And those talking points make it clear Danny is to get the credit.

But why only the Portnoys?

There may be other cases which are far more compelling than a couple who entered the country illegally, were deported, came back in illegally and then started having children, one of whom was delivered if not conceived after the family started living in a church basement.

Heck, there are more compelling cases than the Portnoys.

They don't meet the criteria listed above - too bad for them - and that's why Ottenheimer is also quick to add in every interview that he is intervening in this case but not others.