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“Landing the whole snotball” for new COVID rules is exactly as gross as it sounds

One of the smartest women I ever met worked in Ontario politics. On many occasions, she would casually toss out an idea or a phrase that changed the way I thought about EVERYTHING, in government and in life.

Once, I arrived in her office to deliver a media release that needed quick approval and distribution to the press gallery. I was shocked at her assessment:

“This is all good news. There is no bad news in it.”

“Well, yes,” I replied, confused. Wouldn’t that make it risk-free and simple to announce?

“We will need to use this to bury a piece of bad news,” she explained matter-of-factly. “You never want to miss an opportunity to land the whole snotball.”

“To what?” My head was spinning. “Land what ‘snotball’?”

“We always have bad news we have to get out there,” she said. “If we send bad news out all on its own, it will attract too much negative attention. So, we want to bury it as one short sentence in a good news release.

“This,” she gestured toward my media release “is all good news. Hang on while I find out what bad news we have that needs burying. That way, we can land the whole snotball, together at one time.” She made a motion that looked like a basketball player slinging a ball through the air; but in my imagination now, of course, it was not a basketball but a giant, sticky, slimey snotball. The “whole snotball.” Eeeeewwww.

I waited while she scooted up the hall to the Director of Policy to find out what bad news he had to bury in my previously good-news release. Of course, he had some, and we wrote it into the release in the most inconspicuous way possible and I got my approval.

Watching the June 14th press conference with four federal Cabinet Ministers explaining that Canada is “suspending” vaccine mandates for travellers and federal employees, the “whole snotball” was pretty easy to spot: the definition of “fully vaccinated” is being changed.

Up until now, Canadians who had received two approved COVID-19 vaccines were considered “fully vaccinated.” Moving forward, that definition is going to transition: three vaccinations will be required to meet the standard. Later, maybe four shots will be required. Then five? Six? Stay tuned.

So, the good news (unvaccinated Canadians can take planes and trains this summer at least) was used to provide cover for the bad news (if you thought you were “fully vaccinated” with two shots, think again). This is not a coincidence. This is politicians landing the whole snotball.

Rita Smith

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Officer of Health, now recommends that any official language encouraging Canadians to be vaccinated should not emphasize a specific number of doses, but rather say Canadians should be “up to date” with their COVID-19 vaccines. The definition of “up to date” will be subject to change without notice, subject to the will of the bureaucracy.

Watch for it buried in a good news announcement: that’s government landing the whole snotball. Eeeeewwww.