Yesterday morning I wrote a scathing article on Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander´s performance on CBC´s political program “Power and Politics”.
He made many mistakes in his reactions to the tragic deaths of hundreds of Syrian refugees, including the young Aylan Kurdi, and came across as a rank amateur in a professional’s game.
As an apolitical commentator on communications issues, today I look at his activities from a different optic.
After I published my article yesterday on my website yesterday, Alexander appeared on CTV’s morning program and said all of the right things.
He focused first of all on the young boy whose death on the Turkish shores had been photographed and went viral, spoke about his concern for the surviving members of the family in Canada and abroad, went on to discuss the incredible human tragedy that millions are living in the Levant and, now, in a number of European countries, and referred as well to what Canada will do over the course of the next few months to address this issue.
I do not propose to analyze or evaluate the accuracy of the facts and figures stated by the Minister – that is for experts to do.
From a communications point of view, however, he redeemed himself.
He announced he is suspending his political campaign (for how long remains to be seen) to deal with the issue – even though polls show him to be in a tight reelection race. While difficult, this is the right move in crisis management to underscore his commitment to addressing and managing the situation.
Prime Minister Harper also delivered a clear and humane message yesterday, making his reactions personal and empathetic towards the family of the young boy in the photo, as well as the millions of others involved in this process of flight from the Middle East. His decision to modify his campaign activities was the right one, and underscored his concern.
Crisis communications are difficult to manage at the best of times, and more so in an election campaign – where every nuance is weighed and every activity scrutinized.
In the days and weeks to come, Canadians will have a chance to evaluate their perception of the reality of this situation and judge the government accordingly.
On Thursday, however, Canada’s leaders made the right moves and walked back from yesterday’s media disaster. You cannot rewrite the past, but you can correct the present and change the future.
It is the right thing to do.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.