Home > Federal, NDP > Time To Fire Brad Lavigne, NDP Communications Director

Time To Fire Brad Lavigne, NDP Communications Director

December 17, 2006

Well, most of the time I don’t like to blame party staff for party setbacks, but I’ve gotten to the conclusion that Brad Lavigne, Director of Communications for the NDP, should be fired.

I don’t say this lightly. The Director of Communications is easily one of the most important jobs that the NDP has. The Director crafts the NDP’s message to the public, and one misstep by the Director can lose votes. Just ask Scott “Beer ‘n’ Popcorn” Reid.

I would say that the NDP’s message has gotten off track since Lavigne became Director of Communications just a little after the election in 2006. For instance, the NDP switched its communications focus from solid bread and butter issues that gain votes, such as the environment, education and jobs, to this War in Afghanistan, which, quite frankly, foreign policy issues really not gain votes.

Mentioning the Afghanistan issue, that issue has been constantly miscommunicated by the NDP. Remember the first announcement? That was as clear as mud on the NDP’s position. Even now, people are still unsure if the NDP wants to totally withdraw from Afghanistan or just change the mission to focus on nation building rather than Taliban-bombing at the expense of the Afghan people (by the way, it’s the latter).

It is the Director of Communication’s job to insure that the correct message is getting out to the media, and it does not look like that is happening. On this subject, what I found as particularity enlightening was an exchange during the New Democratic Youth of Canada conference call on Afghanistan. The question was something like “how will the NDP prevent further miscommunication on Afghanistan and how can the youth help in doing this”, and part of the answer was something to the effect that the media is pro-Liberal and pro-Conservatives, does not like the NDP, and has a tendency to misapproximate the NDP’s message.

Well, excuse me for saying this, but that’s that kind of thing that the grassroots and bloggers of the NDP are supposed to be saying. What the Director of Communications is supposed to be doing is working to ensure that the media does not do that. The Director of Communications is supposed to make media contacts and ensure that the media likes the NDP’s message.

Finally, I’d like to point some attention to that pathetic e-mail sent via the NDP e-mail list after Dion got elected. While there is plenty to attack Dion on, calling him an out of touch academic is not one of them, especially if your leader happens to be a political science professor himself. If something like the e-mail went out during an election campaign, it would be poisonous to the NDP campaign.

So while Brad Lavigne is probably a nice person, the thing is, the time is now to get our communications straightened out, this time before an election.

Because, as Scott “Beer ‘n’ Popcorn” Reid can tell you, it is too late during the election.

Edit: Forgot about the Dion E-mail.

Edit: Link to my “concluding statement

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Categories: Federal, NDP
  1. Devin Johnston
    December 17, 2006 at 7:24 am

    In truth, Jamey Heath was a better Com Dir than Brad. That having been said, it’s a very tough job and I think that Levigne has done an admirable job on it. I was privvy to a teleconference on Afghanistan messaging and the messages coming from the party and its leadership on dead on. Afghanistan is just one of those areas where the traditional media absolutely hates us and won’t give us a fair shake. That being said, the current communications of the party are far from perfect and I agree that we need to change our course a bit communications-wise in order to stay competitive.

    Devin Johnston
    Communications Director
    Ontario New Democratic Youth

  2. Northern BC Dipper
    December 17, 2006 at 7:41 am

    Hi Devin,

    I believe I was privy to the same teleconference on Afghanistan messaging (organized by the NDYC, that one?, or were you involved in a different one?), and hearing Brad Lavigne go on and on about how “Afghanistan is just one of those areas where the traditional media absolutely hates us and won’t give us a fair shake” did not really inspire any confidence in me about the man. I still hold that it is his job to stop complain and actually get to work in correcting the issue.

    But yeah, I believe Jamey Heath was much better at the job, and even now, with him out of the job, his communications regarding the NDP are pretty good

  3. Scott Tribe
    December 17, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve never liked Lavigne since he got on CBC one night during the last election campaign and pooh-pooked the concept or usefulness of running blogs. 😉

    Not a very good attitude from a guy for a party that likes to pride itself on being closest to the Canadian grassroots.. when blogs are as grass-rootish as you can get in a lot of cases.

  4. Kenn Chaplinhttp://kennchaplin.blogspot.com/index.html
    December 17, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    Whenever I watch the pundits, or “The Backrooms”, or whatever Don Newman’s Newsworld show calls them now, I see the Conservatives being grumpy as if they were still in Opposition, the Liberals’ Susan Smith grumpy and combative because they are in Opposition and Brad Lavigne just fighting to be heard. So often he accomplishes this by reciting the lines he implants in the leader’s head – lines which, to political junkies at least, go stale so fast.

    For him to dismiss the idea of a blog is typical of the party hierarchy. God forbid the media consultants’ fees should be poured down the drain for the sake of a dialogue between NDP HQ and those of us who try to sell this party before, during and after elections.

    Kenn Chaplin

  5. Robert
    December 17, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    I believe I was privy to the same teleconference on Afghanistan messaging

    Interesting. Why wasn’t I? The fact that I–the admin for the Blogging Dippers–wasn’t is indicative of what the NDP thinks of us bloggers.

  6. The Jurist
    December 17, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    Interesting. Why wasn’t I? The fact that I–the admin for the Blogging Dippers–wasn’t is indicative of what the NDP thinks of us bloggers.

    Robert: Note that NBCD described the call as one for the New Democratic Youth of Canada. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you beyond the “youth” age range?

  7. Northern BC Dipper
    December 18, 2006 at 12:20 am

    Just got home for work, and I have to say I didn’t expect this type of reaction.

    Well, first of all, to confirm The Jurist’s note, Robert, the teleconference was something organized by the New Democratic Youth of Canada for youth, most of which held positions in campus club executives, as Devin and I do.

    I think a similar sort of teleconference for the bloggers would work wonders for the dispersal of the NDP’s message.

    The thing that most people are concerned about here is Lavigne’s support for blogs, and while I can’t say I really approached it from that angle, I must say I agree. I mean just look at the Conservatives and Liberals blog sites! Or the Liberal leadership, where the candidates (except Volpe) bent over backwards to talk to their supporting bloggers (and in Dion’s case, the other’s parties’ bloggers too). The NDP communications guys should be paying more attention to Time’s person of the year 2006!

  8. Erin Sikora
    December 19, 2006 at 7:42 am

    I was also on the Afghanistan teleconference call and I found it very useful. I was impressed with Brad Lavigne, as I often am when I see him on various panels on CPAC and the like. I have to wonder if you listened to anything else he said or if you just tuned him out after you found something to criticize him about. He was clearly trying to tell us how important our role was in disseminating the party’s message clearly on Afghanistan by reinforcing the fact that the media is not treating us fairly. I was glad that he was candid with us. Did you want him to sugar-coat things for you? He was trying to tell us how we could help the party. It is sad that his words have been used to make the NDP look like a bunch of disorganized, in-fighters in the blogsphere. I am sure that the NDP communications team will be jumping at the opportunity to do another teleconference call with the youth or other groups, like bloggers for instance. Thanks for that.

    I apologize for my frustrated tone but I agree that we need more NDP bloggers and I think that this whole unwarranted and unfair public slaying of Brad Lavigne, whom I believe to be an asset to the NDP, has set us back. Writing bad things about him on blogs is not going to get him fired, it will only make the party not trust you as a legitimate medium for the party’s message. As long as NDP bloggers use their blogs to antagonize NDP staff, they can count on not being taken seriously.

    Erin Sikora
    Co-Chair
    BC Young New Democrats

  9. Northern BC Dipper
    December 19, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Erin,

    Thanks, for your comments, but I think some of your statements, frankly, don’t work out.

    I have to wonder if you listened to anything else he said or if you just tuned him out after you found something to criticize him about.

    Wow, you make it sound like the only reason I listen to these calls is so that I can attack Brad Levigne. Give your head a shake here. While the information was useful, the fact is, if Brad Levigne actually had the media report on that information, as per his job, the NDP would not be in the mess it is today.

    He was clearly trying to tell us how important our role was in disseminating the party’s message clearly on Afghanistan by reinforcing the fact that the media is not treating us fairly. I was glad that he was candid with us. Did you want him to sugar-coat things for you?

    Well, I don’t think that I should sugar-coat things that need to be corrected. But the fact is, as Director of Communications or whatever, his job is to communicate to the media, not complain about it. Let me put it in another way. It the Liberal or Conservative Communications Director said such a thing, there would be instant calls for him/her to resign. The NDP is a first-rate party. It does not deserve a second-rate communication team because it is smaller.

    I am sure that the NDP communications team will be jumping at the opportunity to do another teleconference call with the youth or other groups, like bloggers for instance. Thanks for that.

    Maybe this is the type of reason why the NDP Communications Team can’t get the media to say what they want, because they won’t talk to the media outlet if the media outlet criticizes them. I mean seriously, if they are afraid of one little not-to-often read blogger, then they should be reorganized, as I have been saying all along.

    The fact is, the NDP’s shoddy communications has set us back way further behind then we should be at this stage. It is my belief that this should be corrected right now. If major screw-ups happen in the election, as they have been happing for the last couple of months, the NDP is in big trouble.

  10. Erin Sikora
    December 19, 2006 at 11:29 pm

    Norther BC Dipper,

    Thanks for the reply but I take issue with a number of your remarks as well:

    “if Brad Levigne actually had the media report on that information, as per his job, the NDP would not be in the mess it is today.”

    You make it sound so easy. The truth is, we are the 4th party and we have a position on Afghanistan that many people in the media personally disagree with. It is an uphill battle for the communications team in Ottawa.

    “Well, I don’t think that I should sugar-coat things that need to be corrected”

    Sure, don’t sugar coat them, but if you cared about the success of the NDP, as Brad Lavigne does, you would not post these things on your blog and take attention away from more important issues while undermining the NDP communications team’s ability to do their job.

    “It[sic] the Liberal or Conservative Communications Director said such a thing, there would be instant calls for him/her to resign.”

    So you really think that the Liberal and Conservative Communications Director have never said anything bad about the media to party members? And you think that if they did they would receive the same treatment that Lavigne is receiving? Give YOUR head a shake. Most Liberals and Conservatives would not use blogs to air their party’s dirty laundry. I am pretty sure that they are laughing at us right now and I feel a little sheepish for participating in this discussion and granting it even an iota of legitimacy.

    You are probably a nice person NBD, being a young New Democrat in the most wonderful province in Canada, but you should really do a cost-benefit analysis on some of these posts that you put up to see if they are worth the harm they cause the NDP and the individuals involved.

    I am going to close in saying again that I think that Brad Lavigne is an asset to the NDP. He has the respect of the media, who will admit themselves that they sometimes do not give the NDP a fair shake, he has experience working in government, and he quite frankly kicks ass on TV against the other parties’ communications people.

  11. Jeff
    December 20, 2006 at 2:55 am

    Jeff Dean here, member from Victoria, President of Saanich South, Federal Youth Liaison on the BCYND.

    My only comment, to NBC dipper, here is that you should be more constructive in your comments about your own party. It’s just good manners to talk about how you think somebody can improve instead of just calling for their resignation. Maybe there’s information you don’t have or things you haven’t considered, so be careful not to make premature judgments. I don’t know Brad Lavigne, but the fact that he’s in the position he’s in and that he has Jack’s confidence should be good enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Cutting him down puts you and our party in a bad light.

  12. Harry Allen
    December 20, 2006 at 5:34 am

    As a former New Democrat who quit the party in disgust over various incompetencies both federally and in Nova Scotia (where the party has settled down and is poised to become government), Mr. Dean’s sychophantic deference to the party brass brings on the sense of deja vu.
    I wouldn’t know Brad Lavigne if he kicked me in the nuts because I don’t own a television. But people of his ilk who act as though the public can’t handle any idea more complicated than a soundbite – and they exist in all parties – should ALL be fired and replaced with nobody.
    “(T)he fact that he’s in the position he’s in and that he has Jack’s confidence should be good enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
    That is absolute nonsense. A communications person who shits on the media and then wonders why his party gets bad coverage is in the wrong profession. He or she should be in the media.
    “Cutting him down puts you and our party in a bad light.”
    Also stupid. Every political party in the known universe has these kinds of discussions going on in public and private constantly. The message from that statement is: “Shut up and let our superiors run the show for they are so very much smarter than us little folk.” Maybe someone is gunning for an EA’s job?
    The fed NDP’s problem is that its head office staff are so busy trying to be “professional” communicators that they have forgotten how to communicate to people who vote instead of the Ottawa chattering classes.
    I am a moderate, and while the NDP may have its share of malcontents and psycho fanatics (hey look, it’s Bev Meslo), I’ll be damned if they aren’t more interesting than those party brass who would manage the message and happen to suck at it.

  13. pious
    September 15, 2007 at 9:17 am

    This comment has been deleted by the administrator.

  14. Northern BC Dipper
    September 15, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Sorry pious. I’m not about to subject myself to the possibly of a libel case.

  1. March 3, 2007 at 9:48 pm
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