Truth Squads

Watching the latest antics from Conservative Party operatives and I am thinking that we need to bring back “Truth Squads”. For those that don’t remember them, they were a Liberal Party invention back in the John Diefenbaker days. Liberal truth squads would shadow Dief in the hope of catching him in a lie or exaggeration.

Today of course the Conservatives are the ones out trying to catch Liberal candidates disagreeing with party policy or saying something they shouldn't. And this is before they are even nominated. I don’t quite see the point of all this skulking around with hidden tape recorders- pretty amateurish stuff.

I don’t recall ever meeting an MP from any party who blindly accepts 100% of a party’s platform. There are always disagreements, often minor, but never 100% acceptance and that includes on major issues. Why would a voter want to elect a bobble head doll that nods its head on all policy issues? You want someone to stand up for you and your riding.

Usually if you sandbag someone, the resulting controversy gets the victim a lot of sympathy from folks which at the very least, balances things out with those that might be upset with them.

In this case using a poor quality tape compounds the problem. Who assigned this staffer to carry out this activity? Who authorized it?

Who vets this stuff before deciding to use it? Why on earth would a minister and MPs take this at face value and go on the attack without vetting things themselves?

It looks like the short pants brigade have a serious need for some adult supervision and hopefully that will be in place before the next election.



It was interesting to hear Tom Mulcair try to dodge the issue of how poorly the NDP did in the last two bye-elections, as well as the previous one where they lost Olivia Chow’s former seat. If you are the leader of a party your worse fear is that your vote will collapse and drift elsewhere.

Mulcair is no fool he has lots of provincial cabinet experience, he knows what fate can await a leader if that type of trend continues. Party members and MPs tend to want winners leading them into an election and right now it is Trudeau not Mulcair who has the momentum.

Every election there has been talk about strategic voting in order to stop the Harper Conservatives and we haven’t seen much evidence of that happening or at least it being successful.  Usually when we heard the other two parties fighting over strategic voting it was a sign to us that both of them were weak. In our case we wanted both of them about equal so that they would split the vote and thereby give us some wins in closely contested ridings.

In the 2004 and 2005-6 elections my war room attack staff was under strict orders not to go after the NDP during the campaign as we didn’t want to weaken them too much. We even had to get permission to intervene on a riding by riding basis if one of our candidates came to us for assistance against their NDP opponents.

What are the repercussions of a potential collapse of the NDP vote?

1. Mulcair’s tenure and policies will face increased internal scrutiny.

2. The Liberals will probably mount a pre-election push to attract soft NDP votes to themselves in an ABC (Anyone But Conservatives) campaign and this time they will have a chance of that being successful. They may also want to go after the former PC Party vote, using former MP Bill Casey as an example.

3. The Conservatives are left with a few difficult choices. Do they try to find a way to prop up Mulcair in the hope that they will stop the NDP vote from drifting to Trudeau or

4. Do they look at an earlier election date to head off a potential NDP collapse outside of Quebec? An earlier vote would also allow the Conservatives to get ahead of any economic slowdown caused by falling oil prices which could put their economic record in jeopardy. With foreign policy issues dominating the news right now they could also capitalize on Trudeau’s weakness on that front.

All in all it makes for an interesting few months as all of the above gets sorts out.


Losing is Winning?

Canadians woke up today to the realization that there were two bye-elections yesterday. You have to wonder how many outside of the Ottawa bubble even gave it a second thought. I will hazard a guess and say that more Canadians were probably talking about the weather than the results this morning.

The only thing interesting about the two bye-elections was that the Liberal leader’s office ended up believing their own rhetoric and talk points. How else do you explain sending your leader to Whitby for election night- to do what- smile and say with a lot of bafflegab that we lost.

Was it inexperience, over confidence, youthful enthusiasm or just plain recklessness on the part of the Liberal brain trust? It’s not good idea and doesn’t make much political sense to show your boss losing. It would be interesting to know who in his office came up with that bright idea. At least Mulcair had the sense to get out of town. Trudeau could just as easily have commented from Ottawa or issued a statement if they really had to have him spin that somehow losing was winning.

The Liberal-Tory votes pretty much echoed the 2006 results. All the ballyhoo about the Liberals over coming Flaherty’s lead in 2011 was nothing more than great spin on their part. Spin the media ate up if for no other reason than it made the contest appear to be interesting and a horse race.

No one should have expected the Conservative candidate to do as well as Flaherty. He was an incredible force in Canadian politics and as Finance minister often dominated the headlines. No new comer was going to match his results.

In the end no matter what the spin from the Liberal camp, they placed second in two contests. In our present system you either win or lose. The Liberals lost this time, twice in one night, so please spare us the spin, go back and do your homework and run your leader out when he has something important to say- perhaps a policy announcement that says what he actually stands for.



Oct 3rd True North Panel CTV


So much talk about an early election

Speculation abounds right now that Prime Minister Harper will call the next election much sooner than October 2015. While PMO might want to damp down such speculation it is a legitimate issue that is up for discussion amongst both Conservatives, supporters of the opposition parties and the media.

The Duffy trial taking place as it will in the few months preceding the next stated election date will reignite a lot of questions around exactly what happened in the backrooms and what was said or understood “wink, wink.” Duffy will be a man on a mission and that is the most dangerous kind, especially when dealing with a master showman like “the Duff”.  If PMO and the PM think the Senate issue and PMOs role in it will be so boring that the public will pay scant attention to it in the lead up to an election, they better think again. Duffy has nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to keep the focus on the Prime Minister’s Office and who knew what, said what, or suggested what to him.

PMO has stated they are sticking to the October 2015 timeline but really, when has such a statement ever stopped a Prime Minister from changing their mind? Harper has already violated the spirit of the fixed date election law once before, so what would be stop him from doing the same thing again? Believe me you can always find an issue if you need one and realistically the negative publicity around calling an early election will last just a few days and it will soon be replaced by more pressing campaign announcements and issues. Bad press from calling an early election is never enough to prevent an election from being called.

For example there are enough international issues that are already escalating if Harper really wanted to find a reason.

There is also the Fall Economic Update that could easily become much more especially if there is a healthy surplus to announce. It is not unusual in politics for positive economic news to precede an election.  He could announce a hefty series of personal tax cuts or tax credits and then in the spring after a good news budget call an election based on the Liberals and NDP wanting to take back those hard won dollars from all the Canadians who play by the rules and pay their taxes. Of course the Conservatives would highlight that the taxpayers gains under the Conservatives would end up being spent on Liberal and NDP projects and their supporters in special interest groups. All of this leaving the poor taxpayer worse off than before.

We also have the continuing rise of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau for the Conservatives to worry about. He is far from the perfect leader and often just a remark away from having egg on his face, but so far the population has cut him some slack and probably will continue to do so as he simply isn’t Stephen Harper, but a fresh face with a new team forming around him. A new face taking on an old established government with so many familiar faces in it, many who are getting a little shop worn can often upset a sitting government. Think of Joe Clark (Joe Who) beating Justin’s father (who would have expected that) or Mulroney’s win or later on Chretien’s or even Stephen Harper’s.  Remember how the Liberals were supposed to win 250 seats!

Both the Liberals and NDP are wise to prepare for an early election as the Conservative war machine is never really turned off and it can be cranked up to full speed much faster than the opposition parties.

One thing that we do know for sure is that Harper never wants to do anything suggested by the media and if they are suggesting he will go early he is quite liable to wait and certainly do something they don’t suspect. In the end only he knows for sure. But the longer the Conservatives wait the higher the risk increases- potentially damaging testimony, sudden foreign policy issues, an economic downturn, another scandal etc. Only the most partisan of Conservative supporters would fail to see that and not be concerned.

The final decision is up to Stephen Harper and he loves to keep the media guessing. Stay tuned for his next move.