Wednesday, October 07, 2015

On campaign reflections

There's been a flurry of discussion elsewhere about the NDP's campaign over the past couple of weeks, and I'll chime in quickly with my own take on how the campaign has developed so far - and what we should hope for as it reaches its conclusion.

To start with, I see two points where there's some basis for fourth-quarter-commercial-break quarterbacking as to the NDP's campaign strategy.
First, I've previously pointed out the inherent flaw in the Cons' plan to brand Justin Trudeau as "not ready": while it might have been a valuable message as long as it stuck, it was subject to disproof based on Trudeau's performance during the campaign. And while I don't see Trudeau as having been particularly strong, he's at least cleared the painfully low bar set for him by the Cons. (Conversely, the high expectations of Mulcair based on his personal reputation and performance in Parliament seem to have led to strong debate performances being largely dismissed by the commentariat.)

That matters because the NDP seemed to be counting initially on the Cons' personality-based case against Trudeau to stick throughout the campaign and make Mulcair look stronger by comparison. Now, with the "not ready" theme looking like it's going to be something less than a decisive ballot question, the NDP is building off of relatively little previous messaging of its own to paint Trudeau as "not change".

Second, the NDP seems to have expected the campaign to consist primarily of a war between the Cons and the Libs which would allow it to come up the middle as the least-worst option.

On that front, the NDP's early-campaign rise in the polls might have represented more hindrance than help. When the NDP took the lead, Tom Mulcair became the main target for his rivals for several weeks - and the resulting wave of negative messaging has at least cut into Mulcair's lead over his opponents in terms of personal approval.

That said, there's still plenty for the NDP to build on as the campaign draws to a close. Mulcair remains the most popular of the federal leaders, the NDP is still well within striking distance in terms of both headline polling numbers and underlying issue support and voter consideration, and it still has a memorable and worthwhile platform which can be re-emphasized now that it's clear that trying to stay above the fray won't be enough.

And as a bonus, the Trans-Pacific Partnership unveiled by the Cons looks like exactly the kind of issue which will help clarify the difference between a faux progressive in Trudeau who wants to claim the title only when convenient, and a party actually committed to putting people first. So I'll echo the sentiment that the path to victory for the NDP involves standing on principle and making the case for a government with the capacity and willingness to act for the good of citizens.


  1. Greg, are you going to insist on representing Mulcair as progressive? I read your stuff. You know the beating heart of progressivism. A Thatcherite, free market fundamentalist, bitumen boosting, Likudnik, ex-Liberal meets your standards of progressive?

    1. Funny that your list includes four heavily-spun Liberal talking points against Mulcair, followed by "ex-Liberal" as a criticism.

      That said, as I've noted before, the difference between leaders and parties is important. Whatever concerns one can raise about what Mulcair has said in a different party context, he's been a consistent and effective voice for progressivism as MP and leader of a party rooted in that value system. In contrast, Trudeau's party offers no values-based check whatsoever - meaning that support for him only figures to set us up for another round of Liberal disappointment.