Tom mulcair

The Great Canadian Threeway

Some said it would never be.

After all, these are all very different types of people. They do not have needs that align just right, or any discernable chemistry whatsoever. One is too controlling; one is too rough; and the other is too pretty not to be the constant center of attention. He’s pretty much a tease. When under the same roof they tend to bicker with one another, providing theatrical styles of questions and answers, plus an uncanny ability to appear awkward or overly dramatic.

Incompatible, we said. We’re probably right, but this year’s election may provide just the right setting for this threesome to end up sleeping in the same bed nonetheless.

I predict the three major parties will each win between 90-125 seats and thus comprise the most complicated House of Commons in Canadian history. Canada will be a tripartite state at a time when polarization has never been more popular.

All euphemisms aside, this odd trio of leaders live in a constant state of strategy, mostly due to the government’s neo-PR style of leading. The Harper Government should be a case study for all PR students all across the country, a real life example of how to spin, pivot, flim-flam and deflect until the media is exhausted and citizens are too cloudy to care. Like a good celebrity caught in scandal, the Harper Government ignores its controversies, possibly to their detriment, and now must distract Canadians through national security lingo and fearful rhetoric. Instead of getting in front of a scandal they act like there has never been one.

With the prospect of a spring election nearly dead, Stephen Harper now hopes Canadians – a people not known for their emotional endurance in politics – can remain fearful for another seven months. Lots can happen in seven months, and Canadians are already showing they are not beholden to any given ideology or party, especially after nearly a decade of single party rule, even if half the ride was inside two minority governments.

National security issues have changed the landscape, making Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair the natural spokespeople for the right and left, respectively. Justin Trudeau’s strategy of straddling the ideological fence on issues pertaining to national security is muddying his message. Mulcair has proven that thoughtful debate can co-exist with a staunchly left wing perspective, and, in turn, Harper’s aggressive military tendencies can be propped up by real, defendable arguments. You may not agree with either of them, but both make a decent case for their positions. Just try not to read the polling while parties make their case.

The shifting ground needs to settle, and new realities are shaping the landscape, adjusting the lens we peer through while we mull over whom to support. We tend to take a long time to learn the facts of an issue, or a piece of legislation, if we bother learning it at all, and polling companies do a disservice when they collect their premature and therefore toxic data indicating we support issues we do not yet understand. Those polls are cited for months, even as support for the legislation dwindles, losing undecided voters who feel strongly about whatever issue is being misrepresented. In the case of Bill C-51, Canadians are rapidly sliding towards a lack of support for the bill, making Trudeau’s position the weakest when he voted for legislation he said he did not believe in.

Mulcair stands alone as being secure in his opposition to Bill C-51 from the beginning, and the only leader riding a wave of momentum by an increasingly skeptical public. The NDP have figured out the best way to question a neo-PR government is to apply a neo-prosecutorial style of managing the issues. Mulcair is light on rhetoric, heavy on evidentiary-seeking queries. When Harper answers a Mulcair question in QP, you can almost see his mind analyzing how to dance around Mulcair’s finely placed demands for substantive answers.

Trudeau still has his appeal. His marijuana stance, while caricaturized by the right, does make him attractive to a niche of left-of-center voters who may not normally head to the polls on Election Day. Their “evidence-based policy making” promise allows the Liberals to take advantage of several single-issue voters, a strong positive for a party seeking support from both the left and the right.

As for Harper, he’s all-in. The political chess master has a million pieces on the board but very few pawns left to sacrifice. Nearly a dozen of his handpicked appointees are under criminal investigation, awaiting court appearances, out of public service altogether or languishing inside prison walls. He has all but lost his long awaited surplus and will eventually have to contend with dead Canadian soldiers and dead Iraqi/Syrian civilians from wayward Canadian bombs. After all, this is now the Harper Government’s War, meaning they take full responsibility for its glory and defeats alike.

Later this year, the 20% of us who are flexible with our ballots will sprinkle each party with just enough votes to hand victory to nobody. Perhaps the Conservatives will finish third. Maybe second. Three parties with 100 seats makes the results almost meaningless, and the ferocious partisanship will have to water itself down as two or more parties come together to decide policy. No party wants to draw the ire of frustrated Canadians after a majority of which did not cast a ballot for any one of them. Politicians will pretend to play nice while leaking committee minutes to the media or trading barbs during in-camera sessions.

Now, back to the euphemisms.

All the leaders’ antics on Parliament Hill will be on full display, and it won’t be pretty. It will be nauseating, full stop. They are three entities, bumping and scratching against one another, living in the same House, frothing and spitting, screaming and occasionally using dirty words, bound together on old English wood.

A three-way like no other, destining Parliament to become a very, very seaty place.


Political Ad Watch: Justin Trudeau Plays it Safe, and Tells Us Nothing

Screenshot 2014-05-07 11.46.28

By: James Di Fiore
There is a common theme among political parties and their go-to communications strategies these days; they seem to believe that barn burner speeches and stock music will entice voters to throw their support behind them.

Justin Trudeau has had a pretty good ride since he was crowned Liberal Party Leader last year. The Harper Government has been dealing with several scandals and missteps, and for a while Trudeau was simply playing it safe through vague policy mentions and a public ‘aw shucks’ image. His initial ads were strong in the sense that they correctly predicted the strategy of the CPC when he was elected as leader; that Trudeau was an intellectual lightweight who was ‘in over his head’. By anticipating this strategy, the LPC took the wind out of the sails of the conservatives who were left looking like a party without any serious ideas of their own, especially when trying to brand a leader who clearly had them spooked.

Below is the latest ad from the Liberal Party of Canada.

Style: I am not privy to who is producing political ads these days for the major parties, but whoever they are they need help, stat. This ad feels like an internal corporate video, from the lackluster voiceover to the Casio soundtrack playing in the background. The stock photos of Trudeau do not match the contents of the script, as if the editing did not take any time at all to match the words with the context conveyed in the images and video. Plus, the back and forth between Trudeau delivering a speech to the voiceover is hard to pull off. This ad is a cut and paste job masquerading as an inspirational 30 second spot.

Message: Trudeau’s strong suit is that he is not a staunch, old, stereotypical politician and he attracts young voters. This ad touches almost none of those key selling points. It appears to be directed towards the flexibly-defined ‘middle class Canadians’; the ones with kids, jobs, retirement savings….you know, almost everybody. But the ad begins by telling us there are new, positive ideas in the works, and it ends without reconciling what those new ideas are or how they differentiate from the other parties’ positions.

Effectiveness:  Similar to the ad Tim Hudak used to launch his campaign, Trudeau tries to firebomb every voter in one 30 second spot, but may have missed his target entirely. This is a feel good ad, but it’s the same-old strategy that plays it safe by being deliberately ambiguous while attempting to inspire votes. Ambiguity is not inspiring, and this is the first time we’ve seen Trudeau slide into the branding his opponents have already assigned to him. Namely, that the young leader is vague about policies and specifics.

Grade: C+