When Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced a hiring freeze in September, because the government's budget projections were faulty and the deficit was rising, most people thought he meant, well, a hiring freeze.
Certainly in my past life as a corporate guy, a hiring freeze meant you couldn’t hire people. (Not always a smart policy.)
But according to an unnamed spokesperson for Premier Christy Clark, what de Jong really meant was that no new positions would be created.
So when Clark added three new people to the premier's office Monday - taking her staff from 31 to 34 - that was consistent with a hiring freeze, in her mind, because she had 34 people working for her at some point in the past.
The public wasn't alone in being confused.
The government's HR arm outlined a "NEW" Hiring Approval Process after de Jong’s announced “freeze.”
"There is currently a hiring freeze on all non-critical positions across the BC Public Service. All internal and external hiring requests - including regular, temporary and auxiliary appointments, renewals and extensions - require approval from your deputy minister and the Deputy Minister to the Premier. Hiring will only be approved for areas of critical service or to meet an urgent government priority.
“Consideration must first be given to internal candidates. Requests for external hires will only be approved for critical roles -- corrections and social workers, for example -- and must demonstrate why an internal candidate could not be identified.”
The website could have been a little more accurate. Critical roles include “corrections and social workers” and staffers in the premier’s office.
Clark added her fifth key communications staffer in 21 months, former TV reporter and Ontario Liberal staffer Ben Chin.
Which brings to mind a joke I used in reference to Gordon Campbell’s fretting about communications problems.
A man goes to see the marriage counsellor who has been working with the couple, and says, “The problem is my wife doesn’t understand me.”
“Sure she does,” the counsellor says. “She just thinks you’re a jerk.”
After hiring and whacking three communications directors in a short period, it’s time to consider that the problem might not be communications strategy. It might that people get what you’re saying, and just don’t like it.