A View from the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Harper Government Fumble on Potash – Cornwall Ontario – November 4, 2010

Cornwall ON – The potash dispute should serve as a lesson to the federal Tories; passion wins out over logic and economic theory or principles.

The Premier of Saskatchewan struck first in the communications war and the federal government was never able to catch up. From the Premiers opening salvo, the Harper government went into their bunker and relied on a dull, legalistic argument to counter the premier while they considered the potash file.

With a communication strategy that can best be summed up as Question Period defence, there was no way the government would win over the hearts and minds of Canadians with any decision other than a rejection of the BHP offer. Whether or not the Question Period answers of the Prime Minister or Industry minister were correct didn’t matter. When your defence becomes the term “net benefit” repeated over and over while it dulls reporters into sleep mode, then you are in trouble.

The net benefit calculation is confidential. Canadians may never find out if the Harper government made the right economic decision or if it came down to simple political considerations. Either way, their communication strategy has insured that the federal Tories look like losers on this issue. Passion and conviction beat logic and legalistic arguments.


Hopefully someone in PMO communications was paying attention to that point.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.



  1. Nearly but not quite, Keith. With Harper, opportunism, not passion,”wins out over logic and economic theory or principles” every time. Crass opportunism at that. The man has no credibility, none. A walking caricature of the politician no one trusts.

  2. How about that – a decision that the CITIZENS wanted for a change – perhaps governmnet is now going to listen because of the election in the States, which will completely change the profile of the country – I can hardly wait for a Tea Party Movement to start here in Canada.

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