Liberals weaponize newspaper column while hiding their leader from reporters

At the same time Nova Scotia Liberal leader Iain Rankin began hiding from reporters, his campaign was weaponizing a newspaper column critical of his Progressive Conservative opponent.

Voters in Hants East (and presumably other electoral districts) received a one-page mail-out featuring carefully selected portions of a recent Jim Vibert column. If recipients didn’t look closely enough at the bottom of the page, they might have thought it was sent to them by the Chronicle Herald or possibly even Vibert himself.

In the column, Vibert rightly condemned the Tories for concealing their full platform from public view, opting instead to promote a sleeker, slimmer, and far less substantive campaign brochure.

The Liberal mail-out gleefully reproduces Vibert’s description of the condensed Tory platform as “a 12-pager with all the substance of political cotton candy.”

It contains the columnist’s assessment of PC leader Tim Houston’s so-called Better Pay Cheque Guarantee as the “weirdest” of planned corporate tax cuts.

And it includes Vibert’s suspicions the Tories are planning to sell-off or lease Crown land.

These are all legitimate criticisms of the PC platform. And, under normal circumstances, it would be fair game for the Liberals to spread the Vibert gospel in this manner.

But there’s nothing normal about what the Liberals are doing.

Cancelling media availabilities in the final week of an election campaign is almost unprecedented in provincial politics. Doing so while simultaneously exploiting the third-party credibility of media outlets is both highly cynical and shamefully hypocritical.

Politicians, especially those seeking to lead a government, have a responsibility to engage regularly with reporters. It’s the only way citizens can get facts and context over partisan spin.

By failing to hold up his end of the bargain, Rankin has broken trust with voters and indicated he takes them for granted.

Don’t be surprised if those same voters break trust with him and his party on Tuesday.