Friday, November 20, 2009


Some very, very tough questions were put to Defence Minister Peter MacKay both in the House of Commons and in a series of media appearances yesterday, in the wake of claims by a former senior diplomat that Afghan prisoners handed over to their countrymen by the Canadian Forces a few years ago ended up being tortured in custody. For TD&F purposes, this is at its essence a classic crisis communications scenario: what did you know? When did you know it? What did you do about it? These are the key questions at play. And having watched MacKay closely both in Parliament and in media interviews, I say he had some very solid answers. I won’t transcribe the exchanges, but suffice it to say that he had details where details were required, and he never missed an opportunity to bring things back to his top-line messages: the specific allegations don’t stand up to scrutiny, and on the broader issue of prisoner treatment, Canada took action to address concerns two years ago as soon as they were raised and verified. MacKay is an outstanding communicator – he keeps his cool, he addresses questions raised, and he never misses an opportunity to bridge from there into other essential aspects of his message agenda when he’s got the floor.

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