Well, I think we can all admit that the recent attempt by the Island's (what shall we call them) conservative party to re-brand, or de-brand themselves isn't going so well.
In case you missed it, the provincial conservative party recently sent out a “directive” to the Island media that they were, from now on, to be referred to as the Progressive Conservative Party, so as to be distinct from the federal Conservative Party, which is absent the Progressive portion of the name.
It doesn't seem to matter that these whatever-conservatives are the same tribe, and work on the same team, and flock together across the nation as much as Canada Geese do swaying back and forth in V-formations in the sky.
The Island portion of the national conservative team simply seems to have recognized that some members of their family (from away) are kind-of stinky, at least to Islanders, so a slight distinction needs to be made. The problem is this de-branding lacks, well, any substance. Not unlike jumbo shrimp.
For this curious public relations decision has all the ring of a very short meeting of a very tiny brain trust. It is plausible that some of the smarter monkeys in the provincial party recognized that the federal party has kind of a bad rep these days. And even though the members of the provincial party are largely, or almost entirely, partisans and workers with the federal party at election time, they decided during this possibly very-short meeting to come up with a funny trick.
Problem is, we all saw the magic, and it was no magic at all. The public can often smell out ham-fisted attempts at manipulation, and this seems to surely be one of them. The possibly very-short-likely-lightly-attended-meeting may have correctly nailed the problem: Islanders don't like the federal conservative party. Fair enough.
But it seems our local conservative partisans jumped to an entirely deceptive answer: “Oh, well, lets just tell everybody around here that we are not those guys you don't like so much.”
The difficulty with this approach is that is it confirms two prevalent suspicions: 1) Political parties often try to deceive us and, 2) Political parties are often incompetent.
But what's worse in this incredibly awkward attempt to be likeable by declaring that they are not so much like their parents, siblings, children, etc, etc, etc, is that they also managed to offend not only the voters, but also those people who they hoped would spread this sunshine: The Island Media.
For when, after the likely-very-short-lightly-attended-not-well-thought-out-strategy-meeting ended, a notice was sent out to various Island media. Three members of the Island media news gathering flock, one from private radio, one from the CBC, and one from Island print media separately informed me how unprecedented the notice was.
Why so unprecedented and so surprising? Because it featured one single (deadly) word: Directive. None of us probably like having the door slammed on how we can, or cannot, describe what we experience on a daily basis.
For the media, this resistance to control from outside sources is doubly true. So when a political party (de-branded or otherwise, New Coke or Classic Coke, etc, etc,) issues them a “directive”, they get their constitutional Charter of Rights hackles up, and properly so.
Perhaps the best result of all of this nonsense was how Island media stiffened their spines in rejecting and questioning the “directive.” Even private radio, which for various legitimate reasons doesn't always adopt profoundly adversarial stances to public policy issues took exception and reported on the silliness, and clumsiness, of the attempted deception.
The tender-trap, the bitch-goddess, of living in a small constituency like our Island is that there is no hiding from the truth of ourselves. Tongues a-wag and expose us all for what we are, sometimes unfairly to be sure, but mostly simply uncovering useless attempts at artifice. It makes us, hopefully, all a little bit more genuine, because there is no alternative and, with luck, we see the depth and beauty of not pretending.
Which is why the Island-whatever-conservatives' attempt at pretense seems so odd. They are indeed a party which includes many long time Island residents, who should understand the community's aversion to patronizing and manipulative falsehoods.
Go figure. The meeting was probably too short.
Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org