Ontario’s governing Liberals don’t just have a new leader, they’re also speaking a whole new language.
The cabinet office is circulating “style tips” to bureaucrats with “preferred” phrases and language the new government has been using since Premier Kathleen Wynne took office.
And by the way, it’s “the new Ontario government,” not “the Wynne government.”
The memo includes a litany of catch-phrases Wynne has used since she became Liberal leader, including her ubiquitous: “We must engage in a respectful dialogue/conversation.”
The Premier’s proclivity for the word “conversation” has become so pervasive that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s favourite comeback is “there needs to be a little less conversation and a little more action.”
The style and tone of the new government includes a “can-do attitude” and “rousing enthusiasm,” according to the memo obtained by The Canadian Press.
Speeches should incorporate about 10 per cent of French, “personal anecdotes/stories (i.e. family history)” and the use of “active language – bold and direct.”
The government “likes to wrap speeches with ‘thank you and meegwetch” – or “thank you” in Algonquin – something Wynne has been doing since she became the Liberal Leader.
Other recurring phrases include “I’d like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of xxxx (at the start of most speeches)” – another sentence the Premier uses frequently.
Do not forget: the preferred style includes short sentences and “limited use of contractions.”
Some bureaucrats are asking their staff to incorporate the language in both internal and external communications, including e-mails and correspondence to ministers.
But the cabinet office didn’t order them to use the language, said a source in the premier’s office.
The cabinet office — a group of top bureaucrats who advise Wynne and her office — put the document together to inform them about the new government speak.
The style tips are simply meant to help the bureaucracy in their efforts to provide consistent messaging in communications, such as press releases, the source said.
Every new government tries to re-brand itself by using words to convey the kind of image it wants to project, said Bryan Evans, a politics professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University. The opposition parties do the same thing.
Wynne wants to show her government will be very active in implementing a new policy agenda, rather than resting on its laurels, he said.
“It’s all part of political communication and branding,” Evans said.
“Wynne is attempting to establish her brand, which is a forward-thinking, collaborative, inclusive, respectful government.”
Asked about her “new government,” Wynne acknowledged that they’re “moving on” from her predecessor Dalton McGuinty’s era.
“We’re building on the foundation that the previous administration put in place, and I’m very proud of the work that was done over the past nine-and-a-half years,” she said on Friday.
“But there are some things that we are going to do going forward that will be different.”
The language in the memo suggests the Liberals are open and collaborative, and have accepted the fact that they’re a minority government that must work with other parties, Evans said.
The Progressive Conservatives talk about “bold ideas” to convey their message that drastic measures need to be taken to rescue Ontario from the Liberals’ big-spending ways, he said.
The New Democrats constantly refer to “concrete plans” when they’re talking about their budget demands, to show that they’re a pragmatic and practical party, contrary to popular thinking.
“This is a dangerous phenomenon too in that you have political parties that are totally committed to the electoral aspect of the game who are beginning to pay real attention to who are the people that vote, and then tailoring their communication, their policy agenda to the people who actually vote,” Evans said.