John Laforet, Principal of Broadview Strategy Group wrote a blog for his personal website this weekend about the impact scandals have on citizens and government policy. It is an interesting read. Take a look.

Scandal Fatigue

Working in public relations and government relations requires a lot of reading, watching and listening to the news. Knowing what is being reported helps to shape the narratives we develop for our clients and the discussions we have on their behalf.

I like being on top of the news and between ‘as it happens’ media scans provided by our media monitoring service on client files and keeping on top of four to five TV news outlets and more than a dozen papers, it is safe to say I probably spend too much time being in the loop.

That said, this last week reading, watching and listening to the news has been excruciating due to the intensity of coverage of scandals playing out on the national, provincial and municipal levels throughout Canada.

Between Senators behaving badly, gas plant scandals festering, Toronto’s Mayor  and the alleged video of him smoking crack, it is hard to find anything worthwhile to read and clear that government business at all levels is suffering.

At some point we have to ask ourselves to what end is all of this coverage?

The constant barrage of scandal coverage increases cynicism, decreases voter turnout, ramps up anti-taxation rhetoric and gives our leaders an excuse to take their eyes off the policy ball  to discuss their favourite topic instead; politics.

The unpopularity of new ‘revenue tools’ i.e. taxes to pay for a big transit investment in the GTA is likely the result of e-Health, gas plants and the ORGNE scandals.

At the federal level the crackdown on preferential tax treatment for small business owners is all the more offensive when Senators are essentially committing fraud to squeeze a few more bucks out of the system and those same changes that will raise business owner’s taxes won’t impact investors to who benefit from the same taxation policies on dividends small business owners currently do.

This all is to say that scandals show people government is wasting their money and squandering their future, but it also shows Canadians how little power they have to actually do anything about it.

Is it any wonder coverage like this is so toxic to citizen engagement in democracy or the belief that government is actually doing any good?

Maybe a better approach would be hold our leaders to account by expecting them to govern in our interest and instead of letting them off that hook when there is an ethical lapse, we should double down in our demand that we get good government and good value for money out of them. Why force them to defend bad behaviour, instead of using that bad behaviour to demand better results?

By John Laforet, originally posted at http://laforet.ca