Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Susan Delacourt's point that Canadian politics have seen a shift toward a permanent campaign is generally well taken. But it's worth keeping in mind what it means when parties have the opportunity to plan for years in advance of a fixed election date:
Political advertising, once only a feature of the official campaigns, now runs in between elections so that parties don’t have to waste precious time “introducing” their leader, including character and values, to the voting public. The between-election ads also give parties a chance to build a storyline around rivals, which will only be hinted at during the big election show. In-house pollsters perpetually merge political strategy with micro-targeting at selected, focus-grouped segments of the electorate.
I have my doubts about Delacourt's subsequent view that ideology and policy debates are doomed to fall by the wayside. But I don't think there's much doubt that a party's plans for an election cycle should be based on the longer-term goal of positioning itself for election day and beyond.

Just four months ago, an opposition party was running a distant third in the opinion polls, with another opponent looking like the primary magnet for voters seeking change. Instead of panicking, the NDP made relatively subtle changes to its deployment of resources and took a well-thought-out position on a major issue which demanded it. And now, Tom Mulcair and the NDP hold the lead in the polls.

Unfortunately, the Libs' track record when trying to make up ground is rather less positive. And while I don't have a problem with some of the party's latest moves (particularly those which involve somewhat more worthwhile policy than we expect from the Libs), a shift toward sudden, high-risk maneuvers may ultimately have serious consequences for all parties - particularly if the Libs echo Con messages which reduce the likelihood of anybody being in position to offer an alternative government.

With that in mind, a couple of reminders are in order. First, we can't stop Harper without making the case for progressive change. Second, there's still plenty of time to go before election day.

And if the NDP has managed to emerge as the first choice of Canadians by making a consistent case for its vision rather than flailing wildly every time a poll doesn't look good, the Libs might be well served to learn from that example.

Update: Warren Kinsella thinks the Libs are due for a round of firings based on the latest polls. Readers can determine for themselves whether this militates for or against my point.

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