Tag Archives: Canada

The Conservative Government, Image Repair & the F-35 Crisis

It’s been a very bad week for the Harper government and it’s likely to get worse.

The release of the Auditor-General’s Spring 2012 Report last Tuesday contained explosive allegations that senior Department of National Defence (DND) officials flouted government rules, misled ministers and Parliament, and concealed cost overruns to ensure the military would receive the F-35 jet fighters it wanted. And it suggested that senior government officials likely played along.

In his assessment of the A-G report, Ottawa University defence policy expert Phillipe Lagassé explains that DND officials intentionally underestimated the cost of the F-35, embellished the possible industrial benefits associated with its acquisition, failed to analyze the risks involved in the deal, and did not provide adequate evidence to support the sole-sourced acquisition of the stealth fighters. The A-G also reported a $10 billion gap between what the government publicly communicated the program cost would be (first $9B and then $14.7B) and what it’s own internal estimates, and working figures, revealed (at least $25B). This was a gap the A-G suggests the government may have whitewashed: “That $25 billion number was something I think that at that time was known to government…It would have been primarily members of the executive.” Or as Lagassé put it more directly: “although DND and the Chief of the Air Staff are identified as the main culprits in this saga, there is no question that Conservative ministers are also to blame.”

One of the factors which led to the May 2011 federal election was the government’s refusal to present a full costing of the F-35 program, among other major spending commitments, in addition to details about the procurement process. When the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), Kevin Page, released his own report in March 2011, pegging the cost of the stealth jet program closer to $30-billion (over 30 years), he came under fire from the ruling party. Conservative MP Laurie Hawn challenged the report’s methodology and dismissed the PBO’s data as “speculative” and “illogical”, an argumentative strategy advanced by other government and party spokespeople at the time. When the issue was raised during the election, the Prime Minister claimed repeatedly that the program would cost roughly $15-billion and even dismissed Pentagon data putting the per-jet cost at more than double official estimates.

The PBO and A-G reports raise serious allegations of mismanagement and pose a significant communications problem for the government. Neither Page nor Michael Ferguson, the Auditor-General, have a partisan axe to grind. Both are Conservative appointees, and the latter holds one of the highest profile and most respected public offices in the land. The government cannot dismiss their allegations of fiscal mismanagement and obfuscation as mere politics. The A-G report in particular, and the fallout that we are now beginning to observe, deals a serious blow to the Conservatives’ carefully and (arguably) effectively crafted image of itself as the party of fiscal prudence, competent administration, ethics, and transparency.

The Harper government is now fully engaged in a crisis management exercise that began more than a year ago. William Benoit, a communications professor at Ohio University who specializes in political campaigns and crisis communication, presents a theory of image repair which describes five general strategies an organization (government or corporation) will use to manage the damage to its reputation after it has committed or been accused of wrongdoing. The theory is both analytical and prescriptive–we can use it to make sense of a strategy or as a guideline for developing strategic options. Benoit argues that it’s not reasonable to form a negative impression of an organization unless the organization is believed to be responsible for the offense it is alleged to have committed. Responsibility can take many forms: an organization can be blamed for acts it has directly performed, ordered, or facilitated. Responsibility can also appear as a result of acts of omission, such as the failure to properly prevent something bad from happening, or of looking the other way and permitting that event to occur.

Ultimately, when it comes to responsibility and blame, perceptions are more important than reality. Thus, it may not matter whether the Conservatives actively misled Parliament and Canadians about the cost of the F-35 program, whether they were manipulated by DND officials,  or whether they were complicit in allowing the latter to game the procurement process. What matters is whether Canadians believe they are guilty of wrongdoing. The government’s image and reputation is highly vulnerable and at risk.

Benoit’s theory of image repair allows us to ask and answer: what can a government or corporation say when they have committed wrongdoing or face the perception that they are guilty of wrongdoing? He suggests that in managing a real or potential threat to its image, organizations will deny the existence of the crisis, evade responsibility, seek to reduce its offensiveness, offer corrective action, and/or apologize and seek forgiveness.

The’ response to the F-35 crisis suggests both an awareness of Benoit’s theory and an application of some of its key components:

Denial: there are two possible tactics for denying the existence of a crisis. Simple denial involves the refusal to acknowledge that something bad has happened, whereas blame displacement involves accusing others of having committed the act. The refusal to accept the PBO’s $30-billion price tag and to deny allegations of a multi-billion dollar program cost gap was the first step in the managing the threat to its image of sound fiscal management.  A variation on this strategy of denial would be to suggest that blame for the differences in cost projections should be rest at the feet of senior DND officials, although the government has not pursued this line of argument and defence.

Reduce Offensiveness: facing allegations of wrongdoing, organizations can stress the benefits of their actions, minimize the seriousness of their actions, differentiate their harmful actions from even more serious ones, argue that there are more important considerations to account for, reduce the credibility of their attacker, or offer to compensate or reimburse those who have been harmed. The government has clearly pursued this line of image defense in three key ways:

1. It has repeatedly defended the purchase of F-35 stealth jets as the best equipment for Canada’s military, an argument it’s pursued since 2010 when the cost of the program first surfaced as a major problem;

2. It has dismissed the seriousness of the allegations by describing the $10 billion cost gap as a simple difference in accounting. Key to this tactic has been the mobilization of third party support, from academics to former defence department officials;

3. It has claimed that no jets have yet been purchased and, in contrast to the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the government has not yet misspent public money

Corrective Action: the key characteristic of this image repair strategy is to present a plan that will solve or prevent the recurrence of the problem from happening again in the future. The Conservatives were quick to respond to the A-G report by accepting its conclusions and acknowledging the importance of improving transparency in the procurement process by promising a complete and public review of the program, and setting up a new secretariat inside of the Department of Public Works to oversee the project. More serious corrective actions might involve changes in personnel, including demoting the Minister or senior DND officials. However these steps would indicate that the government acknowledges the seriousness of the offense it is alleged to have committed and an admission of culpability or guilt. Neither of those options appears tenable at the moment; yet, as more information comes to light, including a clearer sense of how Canadians are responding to the crisis, this could change.

The Harper government has 3 years remaining in its majority mandate so isn’t vulnerable to an imminent collapse. Nevertheless, the long term implications for the Conservative image and brand are significant. The government has spent several years framing itself as trustworthy, competent fiscal managers who exercise sound governance and are committed to ethics. The allegations contained in the A-G report (and suggested in the PBO report before it) strike at the heart of that image and suggest a serious failure in regulation, oversight and transparency. Images, brands, and reputations are only ever virtual, which is why the Conservatives have also acquired a reputation (with equal amount of resonance) for secrecy, information control and evasive spin doctoring. Language and rhetoric, both in terms of how images are attacked and how they are managed, once they’ve been damaged, are crucial, particularly in times of crisis. The full implications of the F-35 scandal remain unclear, and will continue to take shape in the coming days and weeks as all sides engage in a battle over its framing. The Conservatives are likely to keep the debate focused on the issue of total cost, where they can continue to emphasize differences in budgeting formulae; the opposition are likely to remain focused on questions about the procurement process, and why the government appears to have been cagey with Canadians over the numbers it shared publicly against those it used privately. However the debate unfolds, there should be no question that the government is on the ropes, that it has taken a significant reputation hit, and is bringing the full force of its crisis communications capacity to the situation.

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The Janus-Face of the Conservative Government and New Technology: Digital Democracy and the Information State

Two recent stories about the Conservative government’s approach to digital media are worthy of mention and reflection.

Story 1: The federal government wants to be your Facebook friend and connect with you on Twitter. As Treasury Board president and power Tweeter Tony Clement argues, “To use social media, to speak directly to people, to our constituents, to citizens, to communicate rapidly and directly with our employees and the Canadian public is a challenge, but it is big occasion to promote the conversation between citizens and the Canadian government.”

Canadians are spending more of their time online: here we swap recipes, upload pictures, plan parties, gossip, and, yes, even talk about politics and policy. The idea of the federal government connecting in the social mediascape with Canadians seems both legitimate and progressive because it potentially promotes greater transparency and accountability, and invites more Canadians to talk back to their government. As open government advocates argue, there’s no question social technologies can be used in democratically progressive ways, and may help enhance the quality of civic discourse and mitigate the governance gap between politicians and citizens.

Story 2: In a series of legislative moves relating to overhauling the Criminal Code (Bills C-50, C-51, C-52), the Conservative government will require Internet Service Providers to hand over personal information about Canadians to the police without warrant, to retool their networks in ways that enables live monitoring of consumer online activities, and to assist police in the testing of online surveillance capabilities. Despite protest from ordinary Canadians and advocacy groups, lawyers, provincial privacy watchdogs, as well as the federal government’s own appointed privacy and surveillance advocate, Jennifer Stoddart, the Conservatives refuse to even talk about (let alone consider) measures or modifications that would smooth out the most egregious aspects of the legislation.

[On the Conservative’s new copyright legislation (Bill C-11), see my colleague Dwayne Winseck’s recent column in the Globe & Mail. It raises numerous critical observations which point to interesting connections between these areas of legislation and their implications for digital media, surveillance and privacy.]

These stories are illuminating in their own right but far more interesting when taken together because they reveal the Janus-faced nature of digital media as well as government policy as it relates to new technology. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. With two faces looking in opposite directions, he was at once peering into the past while gazing to the future.

So much public discourse about digital technology reflects the belief–widely shared by academics, journalists, open government advocates, and politicians like Minister Clement (at least publicly)–that given enough connectivity and devices, democracy is inevitable and will flourish. It’s hard not to be taken in by the seductive nature of this claim; indeed there is a case to be made for the relationship between access, information flow and democratization.

At the same time, we can’t consider the democratic potential of digital media without addressing questions of governance and regulation. If we assume that the Internet will only function in the service of democracy, we not only risk operating with what Evgeny Morozov calls a “voluntary intellectual handicap”, we also run the risk undermining our own attempts to create a more robust polity and democracy.

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Political Image and the Canadian English-Language Debate

Although we are now fully into the third week of the federal election campaign, a majority of Canadians will not have begun to take full notice until last night’s English-language leaders’ debate. Sparring on a set that looked like a throwback to a 1970s game show, the leaders of Canada’s three federalist parties, plus separatist leader Gilles Duceppe, exchanged barbs on a range of issues: crime control, multiculturalism, the economy and tax cuts, health care and governance.

Following the debate, each party’s war room went into full spin mode in an effort to declare their leader the winner and to set the post-debate news agenda; news networks provided nonstop analysis and reporting; and the social mediascape was abuzz, with voters, pundits and journalists offering up their favourite quotes, commentary and predictions about the next day’s headlines.

Despite the range of issues which animated the event, voters who tuned in looking for a thoughtful debate about policy will have come away disappointed. Although each party’s general position on the aforementioned issues were on display, these were mostly reduced to well-rehearsed sound-bytes designed to influence the post-debate news cycle. What’s more, several major issues were virtually ignored: climate change, telecommunications reform and Canada’s digital strategy, the aging workforce, and crumbling public infrastructure, to name just a few.

In fairness to the leaders, however, televised debates are really less about policy than performance: it’s no wonder, then, that in the aftermath of the event the news media discussion has focused more on assessing the leaders’ image than the substance of their argument or vision for Canada. Cynics and critics lament the attention paid by parties, the media, pollsters, the punditocracy, and even voters to image politics: a politician’s charm, clothing, communication skills and charisma, high-minded observers argue, should not count for more than the solutions he or she has for dealing with the wicked policy problems of our time.

In my co-edited book, Communication in Question, public relations consultant Bernie Gauthier argues that normative criticisms like this betray an understanding of image and the role it plays in political campaigns. Bernie draws theoretically from the work of the political scientist Samuel Popkin, whose book, The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns, examines the cognitive shortcuts citizens take in order to arrive at reasoned choices. Popkin argues that rather than trying to learn something specific about a candidate or party’s policy position, voters exercise “low information rationality” in order to make assessments about competence on the basis of characteristics we might otherwise dismiss as mere packaging: how they handle pressure, respond to attack and appeal to sentiment.

With the advent of television, political speech has shifted from the use of formal techniques to a more conversational mode of address that’s designed for the intimacy of the living room. With this in mind, the prime minister’s stylistic performance was strong and from my perspective he appeared to be the best coached leader for the event. Knowing he’d face three skilled debaters looking to knock him off balance, Angry Steve didn’t come out to play — instead, we saw a PM who remained calm and composed, who never got rattled, never broke a sweat and whose tone of voice remained even throughout the debate. Harper knew precisely where his camera was located and effectively spoke to it, and thus directly to Canadians watching at home. Nothing the prime minister said will have swayed left leaning voters to give him their support. But he also did not commit the mistakes of classic debate losers that would see major bleeding to other parties. Notwithstanding Harper’s record in government and his campaign gaffes and problems, in the debate he was neither contentious or histrionic.

Most of the media attention in the build-up to the debate (and since) focused on how the Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, would fare in his first televised leadership contest. Overall, he did reasonably well. Although he stumbled on a few occasions, he clearly found his stride when addressing governance and international issues. In response to Mr. Harper’s appeal for a majority mandate, Ignatieff responded: “you don’t deserve the trust of the Canadian people because you don’t trust the Canadian people.” When Mr. Harper accused the opposition of forming a coalition to advance its motion of finding the government in contempt of Parliament, Mr. Ignatieff replied: “You keep talking about Parliament as if it’s this little debating society that’s a pesky interference in your rule of the country. It’s not. It’s the Parliament of the people of Canada, and they found you in contempt.” Mr. Ignatieff portrayed himself to the be the most cerebral and theoretical of the leaders. This image will appeal to voters who believe that parliamentary traditions demand respect, who believe in the importance of a strong international reputation, and who think that intellectualism is a strength and not a liability of political leadership.

Mr. Ignatieff also expressed himself more clearly than the other leaders in his body language. In Gauthier’s essay, he reflects on the pioneering work of Ray Birdwhistell, whose classic book Kinesics and Context reminds us that it is more than just words that express meaning and influence. Our body movements (hand gestures, facial expressions) are also powerful communicators. On several occasions during the debate Mr. Ignatieff pointed his finger at Mr. Harper and could be seen staring deeply in his direction, hand fixed firmly on his hip (a gesture Aaron Wherry suggests that would have driven image consultants to “scream in unison at their television screens”). Mr. Ignatieff’s gestures will have produced competing images that will resonate with different voters: those who like him and mistrust the PM will see an assertive and strong leader and a genuine alternative. Those who already dislike him or have been convinced by the Conservative attack ads that Mr. Ignatieff is arrogant and aloof may conclude that the tone of his body movements convey aggression and impatience.

In many ways the NDP leader, Jack Layton, had the most difficult role of the evening. Faced with having to battle an established narrative that there are really only two options in the election (a red door or blue door), the NDP’s biggest challenge was to make itself appear relevant. And for this reason, it was necessary that Mr. Layton perform in such a way that would help him cut above the noise of the Conservative front-runner and his Liberal challenger. Mr. Layton’s physical position in the debate between his main federalist challengers was a benefit and reminds us of the famous aphorism that “space communicates”. It allowed him to alternate his body position in order to address each of his federalist opponents in turn on a similar point. To Mr. Ignatieff he asked, “Why have you been Mr. Harper’s best friend?” before turning toward Mr. Harper to state, “if it hadn’t been for him supporting you all this time, I’d have to be lending you my crutch so your government could’ve stayed in power.”

Mr. Layton also produced some of the evening’s most memorable lines, the most effective of which was was surely the one directed at Mr. Ignatieff’s voting record. In challenging Ignatieff’s claim that only a Liberal government can be an alternative to the Conservatives, he quipped: “Most Canadians, if they don’t show up for work, they don’t get a promotion. … You missed 70 per cent of the votes [in the House of Commons].” That this zinger wasn’t factually correct (Mr. Ignatieff really missed between 55-60 per cent of parliamentary votes) was really beside the point. Mr. Layton can only be seen to have succeeded in his goal of portraying his party’s relevance in the campaign. Pundits or observers who write off the NDP as irrelevant in this campaign should give their heads a shake. Whether Layton’s success in the debate translates into voter support or seats, however, is a different matter.

The big question people are asking today is “who won”? In many ways this is the wrong question to ask because it presumes the leaders were competing for the same audience. With his polling numbers sliding dramatically in the day preceding the debate, Mr. Harper had to appeal to nervous voters on the right and centre-right of the political spectrum to reassure them of his trustworthiness. While I don’t think his performance will have netted the Conservatives new votes, he did a reasonably good job of maintaining the support he already has.

Mr. Ignatieff had to court the same centre-right voters (who are also in play for the Liberals), as well as those who swing between the Grits and NDP, by reminding both of the Conservative contempt for Parliament and the allegations of scandal and corruption. On this score he did well. But he also had to show himself to be a credible alternative to Mr. Harper. And in this regard he deserves good marks. The Conservatives attempt to paint a picture of the Liberal leader as out of touch and aloof will have failed to register last night. Ironically, the strategy of vilifying the Liberal leader may benefit Mr. Ignatieff more than Mr. Harper in the end.

Mr. Layton, finally, had to appeal to his base of left wing support and to centre-left voters who have never quite warmed to Mr. Ignatieff. Ultimately, Layton’s main objective was to be a factor in the post-debate news cycle. Based on several memorable one-liners and of the media images showing him between the Liberal and Conservative leaders, he succeeded.

At the end of the day, we’re left with a situation where not much will have changed. Nobody wins and nobody loses. In some respects, with the exception of a single outlier, the post-debate polls shows a general tightening trend with some very interesting regional dynamics, including Quebec where the NDP appears to have some decent upward movement. Thus while tonight’s French-language debate won’t garner the same audience share as last night’s event, it is still very much a key chapter in the story of this election. And it’s a story that’s far from over.

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Canada’s Public Relations State

In November 2010, The Hill Times reported a significant, if largely ignored, transformation in the apparatus of government. Citing data from Public Accounts, it showed how over a period of three years, spending on communications in the Prime Minister’s Office had steadily risen by 30 per cent to nearly $10 million per year. The biggest chunk of this spending was on personnel, with 22 per cent of the budget going to pay the salaries of the 26 people employed as PR strategists, officers and assistants in the government’s most powerful office.

Canadians will be forgiven for not taking notice. After all, this example of political journalism did not arrive by leak or following several months of investigative reporting. Rather, it came from the close reading of an accounting ledger — hardly the stuff of scandal or intrigue, despite its significance.

Setting aside the irony that this increase in spending came from a ruling bloc that considers itself the party of small government, there are very good public policy reasons for increasing the communications budget. An accelerated news cycle; the political activities of business interests, unions and NGOs; the amplification of partisan bickering within Parliament; the growth of social media; and the rise of specialty news outlets representing increasingly important ethno-cultural groups: together, these factors present an assemblage of opportunities and constraints for communicating the work of government to Canadians. Arguably, it’s never been more difficult for a government to communicate with its citizens.

Critics argue that this rise in PR spending is typical of a government obsessed with message control and they decry the decline of a democracy in which an increasingly influential cadre of spin-doctors appear to be manufacturing crises for no other reason than to justify their own solutions. Illustrative of this position is the Globe & Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson, who wrote that “although centralized control of messaging has been a growing feature of governments in many democracies nothing in Canada has come close to the attention, time and effort the Harper government puts into managing and manipulating information and image-making.”

Notwithstanding the importance of such a critique, it misses the more important point that increased spending on PR may be fueling a transformation in the institutionalization of communication within the very heart of government. It’s a process that in a different political context the sociologists David Deacon and Peter Golding called the rise of the public relations state. For them, the increased spending on government PR offered insight into more than just the importance of packaging policy. It represented a new necessity in which government had to structure the playing field in such a way that privileged its position in the ongoing battle to manage and control public discourse, not only during election campaigns but in the periods between.

For Deacon and Golding, the institutionalization of government PR was not an evil in itself. Rather, it was problematic to the extent that it increased the likelihood of blurring “the conventional division between public information and party propaganda”. There are plenty of recent examples where this line has been approached, if not crossed altogether. The Conservatives over-zealous promotion of the Economic Action Plan at the same time as a major pre-election partisan offensive is but one example. The sponsorship scandal that effectively ended a period of Liberal hegemony is a more obvious one.

Given the current political climate, a federal election appears imminent. The Conservative government has been cited for contempt of Parliament; allegations of corruption continue to dominate headlines; negative attack ads are increasing with frequency; and the nations leading pollsters are competing every day to frame the political horse race and its likely outcome. The war for hearts and minds has reached a fevered pitch. Although public relations spending cannot guarantee the outcome of a campaign, it certainly influences the possibility of success.

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Blame Canada

Today was my second day of research and it met with mostly the same outcome as Day 1. My collaborator and I decided to split duty — I went off to the Bella Center with the hope that an early departure would mean admission to the mainstage, and he went in search of grassroots excitement, joining our research assistant at Klimaforum for some activist action. Apparently about 3,000 other hopeful delegates and observers had precisely the same plan as me — after 2.5 hours in the cold, I pulled the chute early and joined the others across town.

The big buzz among the people whom I spoke to in line was the public relations bashing that Canada has been suffering during the past few days. Our home and native land has not had a good week.

1. First, there was the daring Greenpeace banner stunt on parliament, and then reports today about a noisy protest at the Canadian Embassy in London, where environmental activists removed the Canadian flag and soaked it in oil to express their displeasure with the government’s promotion of the Alberta oil sands.

2. Canada also found itself on the butt end of a very clever and brilliantly conceived hoax yesterday by the Yes Men, those merry pranksters from the U.S. who have made a big name for themselves by impersonating high profile corporate executives and government officials. I’ve blogged about the Yes Men in the past. The only thing that could have made this most recent situation even worse was over-reaction and hyperbole from the PMO. Here’s a link to last night’s piece on The National:

3. Canada has been a high achiever in the Climate Action Network’s “Fossil of the Day” awards, a daily ceremony that celebrates the “climate failures” of the worst behaving nations. And we’ve been running neck and neck with Australia, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran. Don’t want to jinx our chances, but it’s looking good for a strong overall placement. Maybe this will take some of the pressure off of our Olympians.

4. Also yesterday came news about a leaked Cabinet document that provides compelling evidence about a government scheme to abandon some of the greenhouse gas reduction goals set out in its own 2007 green plan and allowing weaker targets, specifically for the oil and gas sector. The document reportedly states that the oil barons of Alberta would “appreciate” the government’s softer approach to emissions regulation.

5. Guardian columnist and environmental activist George Monbiot has had Canada in his cross-hairs for weeks. Whether it’s in his writing or in public commentary (live and on television), Monbiot has not held back his criticism of the Harper government and the oil sands project. In a recent column he described Canada as an “urgent threat to world peace” and a “thuggish petrol-state” that was placing global survival in peril. In a talk I heard him give today at Klimaforum, Monbiot urged Canadians in the audience to “go do the only responsible thing–get yourselves to Alberta and occupy the oil sands machinery.” Not surprisingly, this generated a roar of applause.

In isolation, these problems likely wouldn’t amount to very much. The Copenhagen conference is full of environmentally naughty nations and there are countless NGOs and activist groups working hard to bring their ecological transgressions to light. Yet combined these events (or more appropriately the actions and agendas they spotlight) invest activist criticism with empirical credibility. And let there be no mistake: the focus of these stunts and announcements is not our government and its delegation, but the media and, in particular, Canadians back at home.

In the end this may prove to be a bigger PR problem for the Canadian government than they may be willing to admit. I say this for a couple of reasons:

First, they illustrate that our government not only possesses an embarrassing record for dealing with GHG emissions. It also possesses an embarrassing capacity for dealing with criticism. Aside from the obvious intelligence and security gaps they reveal, these events show a government that appears wholly inadequate at the art of public diplomacy. Instead of providing a carefully considered response to what are evidently principled criticisms, they’ve taken the bully’s path by calling into question the patriotism of their own citizens. I suspect most Canadians will find the strategy distasteful and unnecessarily defensive. Loyalty is a cherished Canadian value; but so is honest and impassioned dissent.

Second, they reveal what is likely a concerted effort on the part of international activists and NGOs to focus on Canada as a country that may be vulnerable to domestic pressure if enough outside political pressure can be applied. It’s the blitzkrieg model: hit them hard, hit them fast and hit them often.

In the short term, I expect this isn’t going to amount to very much because the last thing any government will do is fold its hand in the face of such pressure. A well-oiled machine (yes, pun intended) such as the Conservative government is almost guaranteed to become even more entrenched while making very minor concessions (although whatever it chooses to do will almost certainly depend on the U.S. strategy). Yet, not even this government will be able to dismiss the impact these events are having on its image at home and abroad.

Tomorrow is a big day: Reclaim Power! Push for Climate Justice! is a morning long demonstration that is expected to turn out protesters in the thousands. There are rumours of a major police presence and it’s expected there will be a virtual lockdown of the public transit system to disrupt population flow. This could get very interesting, very quickly. We also have a few more interviews to do and some others to schedule for later in the week.

Dispatch #3 tomorrow.

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