Minus the angry protests, most political observers would say that the 2021 election campaign has been fairly civilized…that is until this week. The gloves now seem to be off between Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and it is getting personal.
Is negative campaigning necessary? And is it a winning strategy for political parties? Let’s find out what our team of political observers has to say.
From the desk of the Honourable Joe Jordan, Senior Associate
As we find ourselves late in the fourth quarter of the political football game better known as an election, the leaders will expand their repertoire based on where they perceive themselves to be in the polls. It is certainly not uncommon for the final week of a campaign to shift to more pointed, and personal, narratives. And like the “Hail Mary” pass in football, these tactics have a low probability of success and are not without risk.
The first pitfall to shifting to a more aggressive tone is that it can appear to the voter as a move rooted in desperation. Frontrunners should simply not do it. Given the volatility of the polling data during this campaign, it is no surprise that an element of this new approach is creeping into all the major parties.
Some argue that an occasional outburst can humanize a leader and give the voter a glimpse into the leadership toolbox that Canadians get with their vote. However, there is a very fine line between passion borne from concern and a rant based on self-interest. Anger must be done properly and it takes a certain amount of practice to reflect the necessary sincerity.
Finally, if a campaign makes a conscious shift to angrier, aggressive personal attacks that usually involves glass houses and stones. One of the more motivating forces in politics is hypocrisy and a leader better be certain that what he/she is accusing someone else of has zero application to them, or the results can be disastrous.
By all accounts it is a very close race, frustration is an additive emotion and thirty-five days is a long time. There could certainly be a damaging narrative waiting to be kicked in front of the curtain in the final days, but these late antics are generally more therapy than strategy.
From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant
The finish line is in sight folks and after a month of campaigning, the moment of truth is less than a week away. Canadians will have their chance to pass judgement on all of this and vote in an election that a growing majority of us simply didn’t want. At this point, the result of that judgement seems to be up in the air and that is putting all of the campaigns under increasing pressure.
That pressure also helps explain the marked change in tone of the campaign this week, as both Liberal Justin Trudeau and Conservative Erin O’Toole have ramped up their attacks. For Mr. Trudeau and the Red Team, their trademark “Sunny Ways” became the Canadian equivalent of Monty Python’s famous parrot. It’s no more and ceases to be.
As for Mr. O’Toole and the Blue Team, they have retreated from a more moderate public posture. They have reverted to a more combative approach that they have been more known for in the past. Both approaches tell us a lot about how they see the race and what they feel they need to do.
Both leaders are acting with the growing desperation of someone with everything to lose. Instead of delivering calm, rational and unifying messages, we’re seeing personal swipes from O’Toole and taunts towards anti-vaccination protestors from Trudeau. Neither is helpful and both just feed the fires of tension that need less fuel right now. But strategically, those concerns are taking a back seat to their immediate worry; motivating their supporters to get to the polls. And that appears to be the biggest consideration above all. It’s a strategy that has worked in the past, but will it work this time? We’ll see Monday night.
Speaking in Richmond, B.C., Trudeau told supporters that if re-elected his government would “fight climate change, protect nature, and grow the economy.”
Jagmeet Singh visited Toronto to highlight his party’s plan to lower and cap cell phone and internet prices.
BRAVO VOTERS – Elections Canada says they saw an increase in the numbers of Canadians who voted this past weekend in advance polls.
FACE TO FACE…FOR SINGH - It was the NDP leader's turn to answer questions from undecided voters and the CBC's Rosemary Barton.
LOSING HIS COOL? – The Liberal leader seemed not too happy with the outcome of the interview he gave to Global TV’s B.C Anchor and Reporter Neetu Garcha. Click on the photo to view the exchange.
Here is where you can expect the leaders to be today (all times are in Eastern):
Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada will make an announcement at 11 am in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada will make an announcement at 1030 am in Jonquiere, Quebec and in the evening, he will attend an event with supporters in Orford.
Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP is in southern Ontario visiting various stops in Essex, London, Niagara, Hamilton and Brampton.
Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada has returned to Ontario, where she will hold a press conference at 930 am in Kitchener with the Green Party’s Kitchener Centre candidate and Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner. She will then campaign in Kitchener and Toronto.
Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois is in Longueuil, Quebec, where he will hold a press conference on the promotion and protection of the Quebec culture.
In the latest Hill Times, Consultant Cameron Holmstrom gives his thoughts on ministers who are facing unexpected re-election fights.
About Bluesky Strategy Group
Bluesky Strategy Group Inc. is a full-service public affairs firm with nearly two decades of extensive experience working with clients - from corporate, not-for-profit, and national associations, to governments, departments and agencies. We provide our clients with government relations, strategic communications and media relations advice and execution.