Why every corporate hack needs a PR flak

Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway chairman Ed Burkhardt told CNN he’s not a communications professional. He might want to hire one, though. Oh, and some other stuff happened, too.

Ed Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, meets the press.

You won’t often hear journalists say that corporate brass ought to hire PR people. But following last week’s disaster in Lac-Mégantic, which thus far is confirmed to have claimed 24 lives, that seems to be the consensus among many charged with reporting on the incident. Ed Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, whose train derailed last Saturday, is basically blowing it. Burkhardt arrived in Lac-Mégantic on Wednesday. He blamed the accident on a handbrake issue, which naturally fell to the engineer on duty, who is now suspended without pay while police look into it. He said that he feels “absolutely awful about this.”

But then he blew off a meeting with the mayor, saying that he had a “scheduling conflict,” and left town. “People wanted to throw stones at me,” he told CNN, after retreating to Sherbrooke, “but that doesn’t really help anything.” But at least one more sound bite rang true: “Maybe I didn’t present my case very well. But I’m not a communications professional. I’m a manager.”

Pauline Marois, for her part, called Burkhardt’s behaviour “deplorable.” The PQ government is making $60-million in aid available to victims, for whom a vigil is happening today.

One American senator wants a “low-cost, high-tech cable sensor system” to be installed along Canada’s border with the States as a sort of — well, we’re not really sure. But, according to Montana senator John Tester, a Democrat, it will prevent drug smuggling and terrorism. “I’m not talking drones here,” he said. “I’m talking low-level radar.” Shit, we’re just trying to get to Plattsburgh.

Last night was a violent one on- and off-island. Around our way, three people were hurt and five detained in various confrontations last night, including one by St-Laurent and Villeneuve, while in Laval a guy with a weapon (that was registered) caused 54 homes to be evacuated. The cops aren’t always forthcoming about this stuff, so we can only guess what drove people out of their abodes.

Oh, and hey, four more people joined Team Denis Coderre, possibly the worst name a political party has ever chosen. ■

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