Exit stage left

If the intent earlier this week was to exit stage left and go unnoticed, Peter MacKay failed.

To be more specific, his handlers failed him.

The episode took place at a child and youth advocacy centre in Toronto called Boost. Its aim is to help victims of abuse and MacKay co-chairs the group’s board. It should have been a positive experience focused on the centre, but as often happens in such cases, an exclusive interview with CTV took a turn.

Since MacKay is running for the leadership of the Conservatives the reporter took the opportunity to steer the discussion towards his aspirations.

Once MacKay indicated he wanted to raise the bar for political discourse, the reporter quizzed about a post from MacKay’s Twitter account over the weekend where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was being criticized for using Liberal party donations towards yoga sessions, spa visits and other health club expenses.

That choice of Trudeau would seem to us a matter for Liberals to deal with. Of course, the inference is oinking at the trough. For those with poor memories, MacKay himself faced similar claims when he got a lift from a fishing weekend by a defence helicopter. That air-taxi ride amounted to tens of thousands of actual taxpayer dollars, not just party funds. Most politicians live in glass houses, hence the need for caution when throwing stones.

When asked about the obvious irony with raising the bar and silly posts he said – “That was something that happened that I’m not proud of.”  He went on to say, “I don’t have the opportunity always to vet every single thing that goes on that social media account and so we are going to do better.”

According to CTV.com it was then that MacKay’s media handlers shut down the interview.

“I think we’re done,” said one. “You just went way over. I’m sorry,” another added.

“She’s just doing her job, she’s a journalist” MacKay said.

Politics is a rough and tumble sport. And yes, some journalists do cross lines for expediency sake despite going along with parameters for initial access. In this case, a very positive story on the work of Boost and how needed such groups are, is now overshadowed by a cheap moment of theatre.

MacKay was somewhat on the road to redemption with this interview before his handlers took hold and insisted on his departure. It seemed clear enough from what we saw that he would have rolled with the flow, which is something any leader needs to be able to do.

Unfortunately, authenticity has become a casualty in today’s way of doing politics. Unwittingly, leaders have handed off the chance for their real personality to shine, on the basis of advice from supposedly trained professionals.

It is tiring to watch.