Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Air Cadet Gliding Program

I fly gliders as a hobby.  I learned how to do so 30 years ago by attending the Gliding Scholarship Course offered by the Air Cadets.  That course is part of the Air Cadet Gliding Program, a program that has been awarding glider licences to about 300 kids a year for about 50 years.

Many of these kids then participate in the Spring and Fall programs of the ACGP to build time and nurture their passion for flying.  Many like me will devote years to the program during these seasons (30 years for me) taking young Air Cadets up in the air to introduce them to gliding and to encourage them to attend the Glider Scholarship Course when they reach their 16th birthday.

You may recall Rick Mercer did a segment on this in the Fall when he visited a gliding centre in Alberta. 

Did I mention that all of this is free of charge for the kids?

I mention this because on the weekend it was revealed that the military is considering cutting this wonderful program as a cost cutting exercise and I seek anybody's assistance to convince them that such action would be a colossal mistake.  Many of us who are either still participating in the program or who participated in it in the past have started a Facebook Page to save the program and it has grown to over 11,000 members since Saturday but we still need to find other ways to put pressure on the military and its political masters to realize the program is extremely valuable.  It only costs around $25 million dollars a year to run, which is a rounding error in an $18 billion dollar defence budget.

We have made a good start as Peter Mackey has received questions two days running about this issue during QP but that is just the beginning.  We need to launch a sustained effort to stop this decision if we are to be successful.

Many Canadians have benefited from it and Canada has as well.  Countless airline and military pilots discovered and nurtured their passion for flying in Air Cadet Gliders.  Many Snowbird pilots, the pilot who landed the 767 in Gimli Manitoba when it ran out of fuel a few years ago, Chris Hadfield and even Peter Mackay's wife have benefited from this program.  In short its cost is a pittance in the grand scheme of the Defence budget but its value is incalculable. 

I would urge anyone who cares about saving a youth program that has been a resounding success for half-a-century to take whatever steps you think would be appropriate to help us save it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Liberal Ads

No one likes a prick.

And from a political standpoint the Conservatives have been just that.  For years they have made politics personal.  In any other environment if Stephen Harper would have orchestrated the negative, personal campaigns against colleagues that he did against Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff he would have been in trouble.  He would have faced consequences at his job, he would have faced legal consequences and he might even have had to use his body to cash all of the cheques his mouth wrote.

However, politics is not the real world.  While it seemed counter-intuitive that these negative, personal attacks would be effective they were and the reason for that was the targets of these campaigns never effectively responded to them.  Both Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff waited weeks and months before responding to Conservative attacks on them and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that was perceived as weakness, which is a killer in politics.

I do not know of anyone who voted for the Conservatives because they liked them or Mr. Harper.  But they voted for them anyway.  The reason is evident.  In politics being seen as a prick is better than being seen as weak.

Unfortunately, that has a built in trap.  If very few people actually like you it does come back to bite you on the ass eventually.

That is the reason why I find the Liberal English ad rather clever.  The first few seconds of the ad reminds the viewer of why they do not like the Conservatives.  They are pricks.  Then the ad tries to demonstrate that Mr. Trudeau is much more likeable or to put it another way, he is not a prick.

It is an interesting strategy and I would think a good one at this stage of the game.  If, in the next few months, they can keep reminding Canadians of why they do not like the Conservatives in general and Mr. Harper in particular while showing Mr. Trudeau as being a likeable and affable kind of guy they could go a long way towards making the next election very interesting and competitive.

Only the fullness of time will tell us how effective the Liberal ads are but they are a rather clever opening salvo.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Justin Trudeau and Negative Advertizing

When Pierre Trudeau died Canadians waited in their 10s of thousands, for 3 to 4 hours at a time, for their chance to pay their respects during his time of lying in state.  I was one of them.  I decided to wait until closer to the end of the week thinking that the crowds would have thinned by then but I was wrong.  I still waited over three hours for my opportunity to stand for a few seconds before his flag draped coffin and pay my respects.

I mention this as it demonstrates that the Trudeau name is respected and to a certain extent revered, particularly amongst the 45+ set, who happen to be the one demographic that still votes regularly. 

With this in mind and the fact Justin Trudeau seems to be quite popular amongst the under 30 crowd I do not believe that the Conservatives negative ad campaign will have much of an impact in the short to medium term.  Most of those over 45 will probably give him the benefit of the doubt because of his name and those under 30 who already support him will not change their minds because of two or three Conservative ads. 

What Liberals have to worry about with regard to these ads is they could set up an "I told you so" moment in the future if Mr. Trudeau stumbles badly and/or often going forward. 

As well, Liberals are dreaming if they expect that these ads will cause a backlash against the Conservatives.  This is the Conservative MO.  Canadians are probably not going to react with a wave of revulsion or anger because they have seen it all before.  Instead we will probably see a collective shrug from Canadians.

Not that Conservatives can take too much solace from that.  It is inevitable that Canadians will turn on the Conservatives at some point.  It happens to every government and they will be no different.  When that happens the usual reaction is to "go negative".  Unfortunately, Canadians will be less likely to hear that message because they would have been hearing it since the Conservatives came to power and would dismiss it as more of the same.  Indeed, at some point such advertising could just fuel a "throw the bums out" sentiment as it reminds Canadians of one of the reasons they finally turned on the Conservatives.

If Justin Trudeau can keep his feet under him in the coming months these ads will be forgotten.  If not then the true impact of them will be felt long after they have gone off the air.