So much attention is being paid to polls, that P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan is now staging “good news announcements” to happen during polling periods.
The paper in question was a printed email exchange between Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy, her staff and the premier’s chief of staff, Robert Vessey.
In this email conversation, Vessey notes, “Last week in cabinet, premier asked that each department put together good news announcements during polling period.”
The following emails showed Mundy’s attempts to gather some ideas for “good news” announcements with suggestions such as a $7-million joint housing announcement with the federal government; an increase of $300,000 to the childcare subsidy program; two programs aimed at youth identified as high risk of not completing high school; and $750,000 in tenders for upgrades to seniors housing.
These announcements appear to be worthwhile projects that deserve funding and were going to be announced at some time in the near future.
There’s nothing wrong with announcing good news, but there is something wrong with purposely timing the release of information for political gain.
After the content of the emails was made public, the premier’s press secretary went to work to quickly diffuse the situation. A statement was issued saying government is simply trying to inform Islanders of the many initiatives it is undertaking to strengthen the province and improve the lives of Islanders.
“The request was simply to enable scheduling so that everyone could be informed of what was planned for the coming weeks,” it read.
The statement did not mention why this information was scheduled to be released during a polling period.
Corporate Research Associates (CRA), which conducts quarterly polling of voting intentions across Atlantic Canada, confirmed they were to begin polling in P.E.I. Wednesday.
CRA president Margaret Brigley said, “It’s unlikely that an announcement would have a significant impact on the poll results unless it was an announcement of significant magnitude.”
However, an announcement of a large chunk of funding coming to a specific program would be an announcement of “significant magnitude” to the people directly affected. It might be just enough to influence those people, when they get that call asking how the MacLauchlan government is performing, to say they are satisfied.
Brigley is probably right that it likely won’t have much impact.
The Liberal government has been slipping in the polls, with the premier’s own popularity taking a 12-point drop in a year.
Understandably, he would be taking steps to improve his approval ratings. However, the impression left by this mistakenly tabled email exchange may also sway some Islanders into giving MacLauchlan a less than favourable rating when the pollsters come calling next time.