BLUESKY BRIEF - September 8th

It turns out last week’s TVA debate had little to no effect on voter intentions.

In 13 hours, will that change?

Starting tonight at 8 pm ET, the five federal political leaders will square off in the second debate en français of this campaign. This debate will provide francophones who live outside of Quebec, and who did not have the chance to watch the TVA debate, the opportunity to see what the leaders have to offer in the campaign…especially if they are part of the undecided.

For the Bluesky team, we will be watching how each of the leaders effectively position themselves before, during and after the debate.

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

There’ll be plenty of discussion of knock-outs, zingers and flubs, so I’ll only begin there. Debates have always been the best way for a leader to break through to the wider public audience, especially if a moment was so good it got clipped on the National, and if lucky it makes a campaign ad for Hockey Night in Canada. The fundamentals remain - debates are useful for both voters and campaigns as a reliable hinge-point, where people tune in and things happen, inevitably shaping the remaining campaign. Also unchanged, some people watch these debates, most people don’t, but all likely voters will see reflections of it in the days that follow.

The difference? That knock-out shot on TV used to be the “million-dollar puck”, slid through the tiny hole from centre-ice, caught by the cameras, seen around Canada. Now, scrolling feeds are filled with one-sided highlight reels, while partisans make Twitter trick-shots on undefended nets, hoping to score the “million-dollar” prize of 15-minutes of fame. In sum, everything you say and do can and will be used… in Facebook ads. Good (you use it) or bad (they use it), all of it is content that drives supporters, target demographics and media to crank up the volume when you’re near the net.

For undecided voters watching, and for others tuning in as volunteers or partisans, debates are very important for judging a leader and campaign’s momentum. Like a lot of things these days (political and pandemic), momentum is contagious, people sense if you’re up or down, a winner or a loser. These post-debate reflections and judgments have an enormous impact on perceptions, supporter and campaigner morale, and the motivation and efficiency of your potential voters on election day. So parties will be preparing their leaders to speak well, land blows, take blows and set the tone that motivates their most important voters to get to the voting booth on voting day.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

This week sees the two nationally televised debates on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. These will be the only debates televised nationally. The French-language debate will have 6 members of the media managing the questioning side versus 5 party leaders answering the questions while the English language debate will have 5 questioners and 5 leaders…almost a fair fight!!

Mr. Trudeau will have to turn off the “angry Trudeau” that Canadians have seen over the past week, launching attacks at his challengers. He will have to turn on “empathy-Trudeau” and remind Canadians how scary Conservatives are and that votes to the NDP are a wasted vote.

Mr. O’Toole will have to remain happy and positive. He will have to be on guard from the four Liberal-left leaders on stage and the media questioners who all want to score points against him. He has heard the ancient, tired attacks from the Liberals this week and will need smooth transitions to the topics he wants to promote.

Mr. Singh should be happy to be there. He is the counter-argument to many Liberal platform promises. He will have to present himself as the last hope of progressive voters holding the balance of power in the House of Commons in what many expect to be another minority parliament.

Mr. Blanchet and Ms. Paul have no business being on the stage. Neither have any hope of forming government nor adding any valuable input to the debate.

Once the debates are over there are only 10 days to the election. All leaders should be energetic as the future of at least 3 of them is riding on their electoral fortunes.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

In most election campaigns debates offer leaders a chance to make their mark. This is especially true in campaigns where the race is tight and the results are up in the air, like the campaign we’re living through now. This week, the major party leaders will get two more chances to connect with Canadians and convince them that they have the best plan going forward. How they approach these debates will go a long way to determine if they succeed or fail.

For the Conservatives, the strategy should revolve around being calm & making Erin O’Toole feel like a reasonable choice for Canadians. But thanks to the developments around gun control, that job has become more difficult. For O’Toole, I expect to see a calm approach, looking to push back against the attacks that will come his way while trying to leave as little ambiguity as possible in his answers.

For the Liberals, there already has been a conscious change in strategy, moving away from the “sunny ways” approach of the past. In its place has come a more aggressive tone, trying to drive policy wedges into the discussion. Given the success they had with this on gun control, I expect Justin Trudeau to continue with this approach.

The NDP strategy should revolve around continuing to be the “happy warrior”, focusing on the issues & staying out of the squabbles that will come between O’Toole and Trudeau. The “sunny ways” approach worked for a reason, and in moving away from that now, the Liberals have ceded that field to Jagmeet Singh. This will give Singh a chance to continue to show what people have already connected with; a sympathetic leader who is most concerned with delivering results for everyday folks. We’ll see which strategies work but this week, it’s all in the leaders’ own hands.

Before heading to Ottawa, the Liberal leader spoke in Montreal and announced his party’s housing plan, targeting aspiring home owners priced out of the current hot market.

Also in Ottawa, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole unveiled his party’s plan to reduce Canadians cell phone and internet bills.

For NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, he focused on his party’s plan to deal with climate change.

GREAT COLLABORATION - Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) and The Samara Centre for Democracy looks at how we can improve elections into the future

INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY – Police in London, Ontario are now looking into Monday’s rock-throwing incident towards Trudeau

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, Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP, Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois are all in the National Capital Region, where they will participate in the French-language leaders’ debate at 8 pm at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

This is where Consultant Cameron Holmstrom could be seen and heard:

580 CFRA -

The Hill Times - Round two for Team Singh: key figures return for NDP’s 2021 campaign

The Kenora Miner & News – A two-week political eternity

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.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @blueskygroupand LinkedIn

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