Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So I arrive at my in-laws yesterday for Rosh Hashanah and my father-in-law drags me down to the family room to see the results of the House vote on the $700 billion bailout package. You see the vote took place as my wife and I drove from Ottawa to Montreal.

What does it all mean? Despite the hemmings and hawings from all of the "experts" that were in fine form after the failed vote it is too early to tell. We have seen these market meltdowns before and they have rarely amounted to much beyond Wall Street and Bay Street.

It is true that this meltdown combined with the credit crunch, resulting in bank failures, are eerily similar to the conditions in 1929. However, those events were helped along by the governments of the big economies of the day when they reacted with protectionism. Fortunately no government is talking about raising trade barriers this time.

All that being said I am very happy that my wife and I are currently debt free.

How will this impact the elections in both Canada and the US?

Well judging from the rhetoric from Republican members of Congress yesterday it would appear they expect to wear this failure. I suspect they may be right. Barring a major error on Senator Obama's part I believe he has the momentum to take him into the White House.

In Canada, the events of yesterday could help the Conservatives. For whatever reason Canadians seem to believe Conservatives are better shepards in bad economic times. It defies reality and history has proven that but that really does not matter. As well, this could be very bad news for the NDP. Canadians firmly believe they cannot be trusted on the economy and the events of yesterday could remind them of that. As well, the Greens could take a hit. In times of economic uncertainty fringe parties like them lose support as voters decide to stick with those with a proven track record to govern. In this country that is the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. (That was not a mistake).

The remaining days of this campaign could very well come down to a showdown between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

So the Liberals should pound the Conservatives on blowing the surplus and they should use Paul Martin to do it. Get him out there accusing the Conservatives of destroying what he and Canadians spent so many years building. The Liberals have a stellar track record when it comes to the economy and the Liberals should be using the one who created that record to remind Canadians of that fact.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I hate to sound like a broken record but...

There is still a distinct disconnect with what the media is telling us about this election and how the campaigns are fighting it.

In the last three days Mr. Harper has pandered to his base twice, (youth crime announcement and comments about the arts) and he has made statements that folks should not vote for the NDP because they would just wind up electing a Liberal government.

These are not the actions of a man enjoying a massive lead with less than three weeks to go before an election.

As I have stated before Mr. Harper has to expand beyond his base to win his much sought after majority and both the crime announcement and arts comments are extremely counterproductive. Both will not play well in Quebec. Both provide Gilles Duceppe with something to pound the Conservatives with for the remainder of the campaign. The arts in particular is a big issue as Quebecers look at the arts as a way to promote and elaborate the French culture and a political party threatens or is perceived the threaten that at its peril.

As for the NDP statement that was just weird. Someone should inform Mr. Harper that according to the media he has a huge lead and no one is taking the idea of the Liberals winning the election very seriously right now.

As for the Liberals, they are supposed to be history. In fact, Jane Taber wrote today that according to "senior Liberals" the party was now looking just to save what they have and forgetting about winning the election. I guess those "senior Liberals" should have told the campaign that because they have Mr. Dion in Quebec City and Trois Rivière today, rather safe Conservative and Bloc areas respectively. If the Liberals are indeed toast and pretty much a political corpse in Quebec, as the media claims, why are the Liberals not campaigning in their strongholds and trying to shore up their base?

That is what is so weird about this campaign. The "frontrunner" is acting like they are ones in danger of losing the election. It is the Conservatives who are campaigning in safe areas and pandering to their base. With the lead the media says they have Mr. Harper should be going into Liberal strongholds to try to cause some upsets in those ridings. As well, the one perceived to be losing by a big margin is acting like they are leading. Their is no sense of urgency (my pet peeve) let alone panic in their campaign and they are not a party trying to shore up its base, which is what I would expect it to be doing if the polls saying they are around the 25% mark are true.

As I stated before, at the moment, this election seems to be much closer than the media is telling us.

Not that I believe the Liberals are leading. The Liberals are losing this election right now and they are on their way to losing it October 14. The reason is simple. They utterly failed to foresee the toxic media atmosphere for the Liberals and they have completely failed to adapt to it. I have never seen a media atmosphere like this one during any election. Even in 2000 when the media completely dismissed Stockwell Day as suitable material for being PM they did not give Jean Chretien the free ride that Stephen Harper is receiving. It is unprecedented and a sight to behold.

The upcoming debates will not save the Liberals either. I would wager a fair amount of money that the media already has their spin for those nights. Short of Mr. Harper growing horns and a tail they have already decided that he will win the debates. As well, Mr. Dion could speak English as clearly and eloquently as Sir Ian McKellan and they will still have a problem with his English. Most Canadians do not watch the debates (they are a ratings dud) they make judgements based on what the media says about them so the Liberals really are screwed.

This has been the weirdest election that I have ever witnessed. The media is telling us one thing but the actions of the parties are telling another. I have no idea which one to believe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ugh, the dog days

Well we have entered that period of the election campaign when not much will happen.

The excitement of the first two weeks is over and the debates are still a week away.

I suspect we will see another set of ads from all parties leading up to the debates and then a blitz afterwards.

As well, it will be after the debates that all of the campaigns will really kick it into high gear and that is also when we will really see how this election is going to finally unfold.

For now though, if you are feeling a little election fatigue, now would be good time to take a break. Not much is going to happen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Now I am really confused

According to all of the polls except Nanos the Liberals are toast. They are done, history.

Yet today we had
  • Mr. Harper pandering to his base with a silly crime and punishment announcement,
  • Mr. Rae telling voters that we have to end vote splitting on the left to beat the Conservatives, and
  • Mr. Layton stating that he would be willing to form a coalition with the Liberals.

Guys, guys, guys, the Liberals are toast. I know because Mike Duffy says so and he has all sorts of polls to back it up.

So, Mr. Harper, why are you pandering to your base? You apparently have this election in the bag. You should be talking to everybody but your base at this point to push you over the top to a majority.

Mr. Rae, why are you even talking about a Liberal victory at all? Mr. Duffy et al says the Liberals are done so you should not be talking about actually winning this thing. You should instead be plotting strategy for the leadership convention to replace Mr. Dion. C'mon, get with the program!

Mr. Layton, why are you talking about a coalition? According to Peter Donolo and Bruce Anderson you are going to be fighting for second place in this election. You are on the cusp of making the NDP the Official Opposition. Now is not the time to talk coalition. You should be fighting to put yourself over that hump.

At this time in the election campaign there is a massive disconnect with what the media is telling us about it and how the various campaigns are pursuing their respective campaigns. None of them are acting as if the Liberals are way down and possibly facing third party status.

Although things can change in a heartbeat during an election campaign the actions of the various parties seems to indicate that this thing is alot closer than we are being lead to believe.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where is the panic in the Liberal campaign?

Am I missing something here?

Pretty well every poll except the Nanos one (more on that later) are showing the Liberals in the low to mid-20s, about 15 points behind the Conservatives. It is three weeks before the election, which means if those polls are correct the Liberals lose unless there is a meltdown of biblical proportions in the Conservative campaign. Again, if those polls are correct the only thing the Liberals could hope for is to cut their losses.

So, why is there no sign of panic or even a heightened sense of urgency in the Liberal campaign? Usually, when a campaign is this far down signs begin to show. However, it would seem it is not there. In fact, Mr. Dion is taking the day off today.

Some would say that Mr. Dion "shifting" focus from the Green Shift Plan would be a sign except he has not actually made that shift. That was all made up by the media still trying desparately to maintain the "Dion is a dead duck" narrative.

As well, why are the Conservatives not as relaxed as they should be considering they would appear to have this election in the bag? If the polls are correct they cannot lose and the only thing in question now is whether it is a majority or a minority.

So what's up?

The Nanos poll might give us a clue. One of the reasons why he has become the polling guru is because his client is CPAC, a television station that goes out of its way to be non-partisan and balanced. They do not care about creating a narrative. Instead they care about bringing Canadians information about Canadian politics with much less spin. So, instead of demanding polls to support their narrative they demand polls to give Canadians solid information on how things are going out there. So, Mr. Nanos designs polls to do that. That is why his polls are the most methodologically sound of all of the polls being produced out there right now.

That incidently is exactly what the party pollsters are doing. All three of the main stream parties have their own pollsters doing nightly tracking polls probably using very similar methodologies as Nanos. All three political parties want their polls to give them solid information to help them in their decision making as the campaign goes forward. They do not need or want spin.

So what are those polls saying? Are they saying the Liberals are 15 points back and certain to lose the election or are they saying the Liberals are much closer to the Conservatives?

Who knows for certain except the party insiders running the respective campaigns. However, the apparent lack of panic or even a heightened sense of urgency within the Liberal campaign would suggest that they do not see much of a problem at this juncture in the election campaign. As well, the one poll (Nanos) that is conducted using methodology very similar to the party tracking polls has been saying the Liberals have been within striking distance of the Conservatives since the election campaign started.

Of course those public polls could be correct and the Liberals could just be going quietly into the night but for some reason I doubt that would be the case.

Like I said, am I missing something?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The national media has decided who they want to win this election

And it is not the Liberals.

Wow, stating the obvious am I not?

The media have been doing this for years. The only problem now is they have the 24 hour news channels with which to promulgate their narrative and pollsters who are willing to design their polls on the side of art, with the price of sacrificing the science. That makes them much more effective in influencing the outcome of elections.

As well, the Liberals have not always been the victim of this. The national media skewered Stockwell Day in 2000 and they grabbed hold of every gaffe by Stephen Harper in 2004 preventing him from winning that election. An election he would have won if not for the national media.

So why do they do this?

Well, they have the power to determine what is important and what is not. The media can make up any story it likes by just emphasizing certain events or the statements of certain people. They can deny Canadians access to all sorts of news by just not reporting it. That is an awesome power and we all know power corrupts.

As well, I recall after the 2004 election some media commentators saying that they had been unfair to the Conservatives and Mr. Harper in that election. So, now they are being unfair to the Liberals and Mr. Dion in this one. In their warped little world the national media probably believes that they are being "balanced".

With regard to this election the national media just does not like the Liberals. The reason is they had the temerity to elect Mr. Dion as their leader. Before the Liberal leadership convention the whole of the national media predicted that it would be Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Rae. Then the Liberals picked Mr. Dion making the national media look foolish. Their treatment of Mr. Dion and the Liberals before and during this election is their revenge for that and it could be the reason why they have meekly taken all of the BS that the Conservatives have thrown at them since their election. First Stephane Dion then Stephen Harper.

So what can the Liberals do to fight this?

Produce more ads like the one on Mr. Ritz. I know that many in the Liberal blogsphere are a little uncomfortable with it because they believe it is negative. To which I say, pointing out the truth is not negative. The Conservatives have made some very questionable decisions and have had some ethical problems since their election. It is fair game for the Liberals to remind Canadians of those, provided they do it in a factual manner.

As well, the Liberals should take a page out of the Conservative playbook from when they were first elected. Cultivate the regional and provincial media. Have high profile candidates blitz that media with interviews and announcements. The Liberals cannot count on the national media to be balanced in this election but I would imagine the regional and provincial media would be more so. They do not have an axe to grind and alot of these news organizations have greater difficulty getting content for their products.

The media will continue to give the Conservatives a free ride. They gave them a free ride after the Ritz fiasco became public so any event that changes that will have to be mind boggling. Like a revelation that Stephen Harper-pays-for-a-weekly-dominatrix-session kind of mind boggling.

All the Liberals can do is grin and bear it, keep plugging away at it and go over the national media's head with advertizing and under their knees by cultivating regional media.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is this the weekend the Liberals lose the election?

As I stated yesterday the first polls of the election are coming out and their is a beginning of a narrative of the Conservatives having momentum. CTV and the National Post will release polls this weekend and I can guarantee that they will not be kind to the Liberals. By the end of this weekend the narrative that the Conservatives have momentum will be solidified.

It will be in that narrative that the Liberals will probably begin releasing its ads directed at Mr. Harper and the Conservatives but under those conditions that ad campaign will be greeted with claims of Liberal desperation. Such claims are poison to any election campaign.

It was vital for the Liberals to force the media to begin changing what they were saying about them and Mr Harper before this weekend. They have missed that opportunity and that could very well be fatal.

Mr. Dion has run a competent campaign but there has been no sense of urgency. There has been no story arc, it has just been a bunch of seemingly random announcements.

The Conservatives are running a campaign centred on Mr. Harper. That campaign became even more centred on him as a result of the implosion of the Conservative war room. The Liberals should be getting in his face. Right now he is not under any pressure and until he is he can just coast. Paul Martin tried to do that in 2004 but the Conservatives would not let him. They were in his face from the beginning. If it were not for the wheels falling of the Conservative campaign later in that election the Conservatives could have eked out a minority government.

There are four weeks left in the campaign but the Liberals have until about the middle of the coming week to find that sense of urgency and begin to actually fight this election. If they have not done so by Wednesday they will be pretty much finished.

The Liberals have put themselves into a very nasty spot. At the beginning of this campaign they were in the position of being the masters of their own destiny. However, their lack of urgency has let that moment pass and now they have to hope for a meltdown in the broader Conservative campaign if they hope to pull this out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mr. Harper is now more vulnerable

The departure of Mr. Sparrow and the apparent unravelling of the Conservative war room will have a negligible effect on the the immediate Conservative campaign. Mr. Sparrow's comments will not cause a huge shift of support away from the Conservatives.

The effects of these events will be felt much later in the campaign.

This situation leaves Mr. Harper as THE Conservative campaign. There appeared to be some strategy behind the War Room where it launched the most outrageous Conservative attacks on the Liberals, going so far as to peddle bald-faced lies, while Mr. Harper could go around looking "Prime Ministerial".

That is no longer the case. Mr. Harper finds himself in the position of having to perform two equally important but largely incompatible functions of this campaign. Appear like a PM and be an attack dog.

Misleading Canadians in the most blatant fashion is part of the Conservative strategy and as long as it was coming from the war room in Ottawa Mr. Harper was insulated from it. Now he has to do it himself and that could put him on the hook personally for any lies he is caught telling. An example of that is his assertion of The Green Shift Plan being a trigger for a recession and being a threat to national unity. The Globe and Mail called him on it today, although in a very gentle fashion. However, if he keeps doing this eventually even this compliant media will have to call him on it much more forcefully just to maintain its what's left of its credibility. If that happens Mr. Harper's credibility is toast and so is the Conservatives re-election chances.

The pressure on Mr. Harper is now much greater than it was at the beginning of the campaign. Now more than ever the Liberals have to find a way to make him mad and they have to be on top of everything he says from this point forward, ready with quick and factual rebuttals of what will likely be more fabrications by Mr. Harper.

This is an opportunity for the Liberals. Mr. Harper is now completely exposed and the Liberals have to find a way to take advantage of that situation.

So far the Liberals are losing

The first five days of the election campaign have been boring, uninspiring and pointless.

The campaign has been dominated by the trivial, from Liberal airplanes, to Pooping Puffins to Lizzie May in the debates. I know it is not a popular view but I am really pissed off that almost two whole days of the campaign were about her and the debates. There are so many other issues that we should be talking about. Issues that effect the lives and livelihood of Canadians but instead of addressing them we have two days Liz May bitching about being left out of the debates dominating the conversation. Who cares? Obviously my priorities for this election are much different from others.

Neither of the two big parties has done anything to grab the attention of Canadians. They have made some announcements that will not penetrate the Canadian consciousness one iota. Both are running low-key campaigns. As well, neither really has a campaign theme. All of these announcements seem to be just random promises.

In such a situation the advantage goes to the incumbent.

Some have commented the media seems to be giving the Conservatives a pass on their gaffe-a-day campaign. They are complaining and wondering why. Considering how the media treated the Liberals during the 2004 and 2006 election and since the last election they should not be surprised. If they were thinking that the media would suddenly become more balanced during the campaign they were dreaming. I thought the media might have grown a pair and pushed back at the Conservatives for the shabby treatment they have received at the hands of that party but such is not the case. Our MSM really is populated by a bunch of wimps.

My biggest fear is the braintrust of the Liberal Party is also expecting fair and balanced reporting by our MSM. If so they are screwed.

Further, the first round of election polls are due to come out this weekend with one due as early as tomorrow. Mark my words, they will not be kind to the Liberals so the media narrative next week will be the Conservatives have the momentum and considering the week the Conservatives have had the media will add the twist that they have the momentum DESPITE a lacklustre first week.

The Liberal Party has to get ahead of this and the only way to do it is to give the media the Shawinigan handshake. They have to force them out of their complacency. They have to force them to rethink their narrative.

To do so they have to have a two pronged attack.

First they have to announce a big policy plank or two that are different but complementary to the Green Shift Plan and they need to announce them in the next day or two. The Plan is old news and it does not grab anybody's attention anymore. A major plank about the economy and a major plank directed at Quebec would do the trick. Beginning to articulate an actual campaign theme would be a good start too.

Second, they need to highlight the brutal record and scandals of the Conservatives with a high impact ad campaign and they need to do that before the weekend. If they do so during the coming media narrative they will be accused of being desperate. They need to do it before that narrative really begins to develop.

Ads about the "In-and-Out Scheme", the Cadman Affair, the Bernier Affair and the Nafta Affair would be a good start. And they need to make a decent ad buy. I have yet to see the Green Shift ad on TV. I have turned off the Stephen Harper sweater vest ads on more occasions than I can count but nada for The Green Shift. There is no use producing ads if you do not bother with an inadequate ad buy. Oh yes, the internet does not cut it. It still only reaches a fraction of what the MSM reaches.

If the Liberals really want to win this thing they have to kick it into another gear and they need to do so now.

Update: A third prong in their attack is they have to start doing things to make Stephen Harper mad. He does not take criticism well so they have to start piling it on. In all cases it has to be issue based and not personal.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Conservatives announce a $1 Billion subsidy to Big Oil.

The announcement of the cut in excise taxes on diesel and jet fuel will cost the Federal treasury $1 billion dollars.

The actual difference at the pumps for diesel will be 2 cents per litre. So if the price of diesel is $1.20/L then the price will come down to $1.18/L. How long does anybody believe the price would stay at its newly reduced level for long? Big Oil would back-fill that reduction in a heartbeat and take that money for themselves.

The actual difference in price for jet fuel is about the same as diesel. So we could expect Big Oil to do the same. Although, they might decide to give the airlines a break and not raise the price but I would bet large sums of money that those airlines would not pass on any saving, instead using the reduction to shore up their rather messy balance sheets. Of course, I would not expect Big Oil to give anybody a break so they would reap the full benefit as well.

So, there you have it. The average consumer will not save a penny as a result of these tax cuts and Big Oil will reap a $1 Billion dollar windfall.

It is nice that you are looking out for your buddies in the Oil Industry there Mr. Harper.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Plane! The Plane!

"My guess is they will be on the lookout for any mistake by Mr. Dion or the Liberals so that they can hype it up while they will ignore or at least downplay any errors by Mr. Harper and the Conservatives."

I saw the CTV news tonight and heard Bob Fife do exactly what I stated the media would do a few days ago.

Apparently, the Liberals are finalizing the arrangements for their campaign plane and since they have not done it yet Mr. Fife tells Canadians that this is sign of disarray in the Liberal campaign. Let us leave aside that it does take time to find a suitable aircraft, particularly since it has to carry not only Mr. Dion and his entourage but it also has to carry all of the parasites, er I mean, the national media that will be following Mr. Dion. Let us leave aside that they will have finalized the arrangements by tomorrow. As well, let us not forget that they will not be using the plane until the campaign begins so they did not need to have the final arrangements made until tomorrow. No, Mr. Fife has to hype up this situation.

Oh and to add to it, apparently the airplane the Liberals do not have yet is a 737, which Mr. Fife states is a gas guzzling aircraft. How can a man who is running on the environment use a gas guzzler intones Mr. Fife. Oh the horror, the horror!! To which I ask, if the Liberals do not have an airplane yet how does Mr. Fife know that the Liberals will be using a 737? As well, all large wide bodied jets guzzle jet fuel like crazy but Mr. Fife neglects to tell Canadians that little fact.

Liberals should have no doubts about how the media will view them and present them to Canadians in the next couple of weeks and they should be prepared for it. They will not catch any breaks so they are going to have to manufacture those breaks for themselves.

Why am I surprised?

I have to admit that I am truly surprised by the media's resurrection of the idea of the possibility of the Conservatives winning a majority government. And I am surprised and perturbed that I am surprised about them doing so.

The media talked about the prospect of the Conservative majority for the first year or so of their government but then it stopped because events began to overtake their narrative. The Conservatives began to drift downwards until they were tied with the Liberals and they remained so for the last six to nine months. Indeed, less than ten days ago two very reputable polling firms put the Conservatives slightly behind while another polling firm that usually overstates Conservative support said they were tied and in the low 30 range.

Then the media released some polls this past week that showed the Conservatives spiking into the high 30 range this week. There of course, was no explanation of why this happened or of what circumstances would have brought this about. No analysis, nothing. Instead they just lept to the "Conservative majority" idea again.

And I was surprised. I would have thought they would have taken into account the situation from the last 6 to 9 months and tempered their narrative a bit or at least try to give some explanation of why there was a sudden change. Silly me, I know how the media works so I should not be surprised and I am very disappointed in my own naivté.

Oh well, live and learn.

Now that my cynicism about our MSM has been renewed and reinforced I can say that I do not believe this narrative any more than I believe any other narrative they have peddled over the last 20 years. I have observed way too many elections to believe what the media says at the beginning of them will reflect what the reality will be at the end of them. The narrative could be right but I would wager a fair amount that it will be flat wrong so I will wait until mid October and see what happens.

But I am still quite upset with myself for letting them surprise me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Welcome to 2004

I am always amazed at how history repeats itself in politics. It must be because no politician has had an original thought on how to win elections since the creation of representative democracy.

In 2004 Paul Martin was riding high in the polls, with personal leadership ratings 25 points higher than Stephen Harper and his party in the low 40% range while the Conservatives were around 15 points back. Every newspaper in the country was stating without reservation that Mr. Martin would weather the sponsorship scandal storm and win a majority government. The main reason of course was those polling numbers and the fact the media firmly believed that Mr. Harper would never be able to beat Mr. Martin and the Big Red Machine.

The Liberals apparently believed this hype themselves because their election strategy for the 2004 campaign was to highlight the superior leadership qualities of Paul Martin compared to Mr. Harper.

The first part of that strategy was to release a series of negative attack ads that were directed straight at Mr. Harper. No talk of policy just an attempt to paint Mr. Harper as a dogmatic, neo-conservative "Alberta Firewall" ideologue who could not be trusted with power. The next part of the strategy was to release a series of positive ads depicting Mr. Martin as the steady hand and friendly everyman. The final part of the strategy was to trash Mr. Harper at every turn during the actual campaign. The Liberal Red Book that year was very thin as the Party did not really develop much of an election platform.

Does all of this sound familier?

We all know what happened next. By the final weekend of the election the Liberals and the Conservatives were statistically tied in the polls with the Liberals having lost almost 10 points of support, with most of that going to the Conservatives and the rest going to the NDP and the Bloc. They made a slight recovery in the final weekend and their net loss was only 7 points with a result being a minority government.

Of course there are differences. Mr. Harper will not have the mother of all political scandals hanging over his head. He will have a few, including one where video of the RCMP raiding Conservative Party Headquarters was taken by Liberal Party cameramen, so we could be seeing that video again in the next few weeks. However, they are small compared to what Mr. Martin had to deal with.

Then again Mr. Martin could boast a multi-billion government surplus and he was running as the government when the Canadian economy was running on all cylinders. As well, he was not saddled with a war in a far off land and a casualty rate that could hit the psychologically important century mark during the course of the election campaign.

As well, Mr. Harper was kind enough to have an election platform as thin as the Liberal platform. There was not much to it. It remains to be seen if the Conservatives will have a comprehensive platform this time around or if they will stick to the "five priorities" strategy that he employed with some success in 2006.

The final big difference is now Mr. Harper is running as the leader of the government. Many pundits have pointed out the fact this will be his third campaign but it will be the first where he will be running as the head honcho. He will no longer have the luxury of running without having a record to defend. He will no longer have the luxury of being able to attack another party without them having plenty of ammunition to fire back. He will be the primary target for all of the other parties this time around and he will be subject to relentless attacks from them. He has never reacted well to criticism so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to almost six weeks of it.

Mr. Martin's decision to make the 2004 election about him and his leadership turned out to be an almost fatal political mistake. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Harper's decision to do the same thing will result in a different outcome.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

How will this election play in the media?

That is one of the intangibles in the upcoming election.

The current media narrative is not positive for the Liberals. After months of not mentioning the notion of a Conservative majority government, because the Conservatives were drifting in the other direction, many media pundits have resurrected the idea. Of course it is based on a couple of polls that suddenly show the Conservatives in the high 30 range after they had been sitting in the low 30s for more than six months. The media fails to mention why such a sudden change took place especially since nothing dramatic has happened in the last two weeks. Unless, of course you include more bad economic news in Ontario, an outbreak of a potentially deadly infection borne by tainted meat products, casualties climbing in the war in Afghanistan, Stephen Harper breaking his own fixed-elections law, and almost universal accounts that the Conservatives were about to take a beating in four by-elections. I am certain all of these events explain the sudden rise in Conservative fortunes being touted by the media.

My God, they must think Canadian are idiots.

So what can we expect for the election?

My guess is they will be on the lookout for any mistake by Mr. Dion or the Liberals so that they can hype it up while they will ignore or at least downplay any errors by Mr. Harper and the Conservatives. That mean the Liberals will have a great deal of pressure in them for the first couple of weeks. If they can get through the first couple of weeks relatively unscathed they will be in good shape.

The Liberals will have to hammer Stephen Harper while staying on message with regard to their platform. They will need to be disciplined. That does not mean Stephane Dion will have to muzzle his team. It does, however, mean that the Liberals will need to avoid another "Beer and Popcorn" moment, which was the most hyped moment in the 2006 election. How an off the cuff remark by a party apparatchik can become a three day story just demonstrates how bankrupt is our media. But I digress.

They will also have to realize that the media cares more about strategy than policy. So while they should be releasing their policies as the election goes on they will have to keep a close eye on their overall election strategy and that of the Conservatives.

Media narratives can change on a dime during elections.
  • In 1984, the narrative was John Turner would win the election for the Liberals over the inexperienced Brian Mulroney.
  • In 1993, the narrative was Kim Campbell would hang on to government over yesterday's man Jean Chretien.
  • In 1997, the narrative was Jean Chretien would handily win another majority government.
  • In 2000, the narrative was Jean Chretien would be reduced to a minority government.
  • In 2004, the narrative was Stephen Harper, a bookish, policy wonk with zero charisma and leaderhship ratings more than 20 points behind Paul Martin would not stand much of a chance and the Liberals would hang on to their majority, just not the sweep that was expected when he became Prime Minister.

In all of these elections the narratives changed in mid-election because events overtook them.

The Liberals are in better shape that the media is letting on. They are well within striking distance of the Conservatives and as I stated in my previous post history has demonstrated that election campaigns are not kind to incumbents. The Liberals have as much chance of winning as the Conservatives and I would even state they have a better chance of winning a majority than the Conservatives. (See my previous post for why)

However, the Liberals have to understand that they will have to be prepared to deal with a hostile to ambivalent media as well as the other political parties.