To: MikeMorton@ nomorequestions.bc.com From Lester@lalaland.tc.ca.
Subject: 20 More Paycheques.
Allow me to express my sincere congratulations on your recent reappointment to the job of press secretary, this time to Premier Christy Clark.
We both know what hard, dangerous work this is. Talking to annoying reporters constantly without actually saying anything is a job that is filled with tension.
You're being installed as a cutout valve, like every other press secretary before you. Premiers faced with a barrage of questions every time they appear in public can't say: "I don't know," or "I don't care," or "Shut up and leave me alone."
So they hire someone to insulate them from all the questions.
You've got a lot of insulating to do.
Your old boss got the Order of B.C. six months after leaving office. You should get an OBC too, for agreeing to come back to the office. That's very unlikely, so the paycheques will have to make up for that.
There's something amusing about the scenario that dragged you out of retirement. The premier's polling numbers are dropping, she's not getting any respect anywhere and people are upset about the Community Living B.C. bonus botch and a hundred other things.
So she thinks hiring a friendly new press secretary is the way to start a turnaround. Not to discount things, but it's a bit like hiring a new flight attendant to pull the plane out of a flat spin.
She lured Sara MacIntyre from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office into the post earlier. But it looks like MacIntyre was a little too "Ottawa" for her tastes. So she gets shuffled a step away from the fray and you get to take the calls from now on.
It's also amusing to see how many communications people Clark is burning through. Three in 15 months is a bit remarkable for someone who is supposed to be a natural-born communicator.
You'll notice a couple of changes in how the premier's office works under Clark compared to Gordon Campbell.
Insiders aren't afraid any more, for one. There was a time when the most fearful thing you could say to a Liberal was: "Premier's office on line one."
They used to roll under the desks when they heard that. Now some of them just roll their eyes.
There's also a lot more free styling going on. The old command-and-control system is looser than it used to be. More people are doing what they want, as opposed to doing what they're told.
Normally, that would make for a more relaxing time. But relaxing is the last word to describe the Liberal government these days.
You'll find your colleagues a bit tense about the NDP. Campbell went years without mentioning them, or even thinking about them. Nowadays, Clark is preoccupied by Adrian Dix and the NDP.
Also different, they're taking the B.C. Conservatives seriously. Liberals used to be Conservatives, so the Conservatives didn't matter. Then they went all liberal, to the point where when Clark came along, she had to become a little conservative, if you're still with me.
You'll find a mix of both in the office, but I'm sure you'll get along. Just keep your back to the wall and don't make any sudden moves.
On the other hand, there's a lot that will feel exactly the same. The caucus is still inside the same 11-year-old message box. "NDP represent the dismal decade of decline." "They'll destroy the economy." "People will once again be fleeing the province."
Dust off any rhetorical flourishes from eight, nine or 40 years ago and they'll still be useful.
And the B.C. Rail story is still running strong. Clark has been cleared by all the authorities, but is still grappling with questions stemming from "memos to file" and bracing for an auditor general's report on how the two culprits' legal bills were paid by taxpayers.
All in all, it should be a bracing experience. You'll get all the fun of talking to dozens of reporters every day. You'll get a whole new perspective representing a premier who is so low in the polls she'll try almost anything to get the Liberals back on track.
And if she pulls it off, you'll get a share of the credit – the first press secretary who made a difference.
Have your people tweet my people. We should talk.