I remember reading some comments from Liberal Senator Keith Davies, otherwise known as the "Rain Maker" for his successful stewardship of several Liberal election campaigns. He stressed that in politics, perception was everything -- something this latest generation of Liberals seems to have forgotten.
Arrogance and entitlement have always been the downfall of the Liberals, whether it was Justin's father giving the "Salmon Arm" salute to voters or David Dingwall's expensing a package of gum, they have left a lasting impression with voters. Now it is quite true that when voters get fed up with the Conservatives they can overlook this Liberal failing -- but it doesn't take much to remind them about what they don't like about Liberals.
If the voters feel it is inappropriate, then in their mind it is and they don't give a damn if you followed the rules or if it was within the guidelines or not.
Politicians need to keep in mind that it is the small things that add up over time and it is the small things that get them booted out of office. It's the continual picking away by the opposition of the day and the media that eventually sours voters on a government.
What was Trudeau thinking when he suggested to his top two staffers in their letter of employment that they could access this relocation program in its entirety? Did he not stop and think this through; did he not pause and wonder what "regular" Canadians might think? Did he just rubber stamp a letter offered to him by a staffer to sign? Clearly someone wasn't thinking (especially his two top aides).
Now I am not saying that Telford and Butts didn't follow the rules. All the evidence says that they did. Following the rules is the song they all sing when it blows up in their face. Bev Oda's $16 orange juice was within the guidelines, but that didn't matter to voters. Nor does the fact that Telford and Butts followed the guidelines matter -- what matters is the perception of what the voters interpret as going on. If the voters feel it is inappropriate, then in their mind it is and they don't give a damn if you followed the rules or if it was within the guidelines or not.
Voters can be boondoggled on policy matters, but there are some things they understand -- especially if it things they also do. People have paid for a glass of orange juice, people have sold homes and moved, and people have paid moving expenses, real estate fees and lawyer's fees out of their own pocket- they really do get it. Did no one in the Liberal brain trust (especially his top two advisors) not stop to ask the "what if" question? What if this goes public -- how will the media and voters react to my claims? Did no one give any thought as to public reaction?
The median family income in Canada is $76,000, median salary around $50,000. Voters look at Butts claiming in expenses close to the yearly income of two entire families, or 2.5 workers' salaries just for a move to accept a high paying job in Ottawa. These are the same families that would have to shoulder all moving costs on their own. Telford charged more than an entire family's year income as well. Do you think staff charging over $207,000 to move the short distance from Toronto to Ottawa impressed Canadian voters? What does this say about Trudeau's promise to do things differently?
If perception in politics as Keith Davies maintained was everything, so far we have seen:
- A media blow up over Trudeau trying to charge his two nannies salaries to his office budget
- Sophie wanting extra staff to support her work
- Ministers trying to pretend that they didn't use limousines
- Extravagant moving expenses charges
The old Liberal narrative is being refreshed in the voters mind and once again "they are entitled to their entitlements" rings true. It is time for them to come out of their ivory tower and time for them to start asking the "what if" questions and give voters a break -- if they don't voters can even the score at election time.
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