Thursday, March 31, 2011

Did the Tories trigger Coalition attack too soon?

Beware the reckless Coalition!

That’s been the Conservative Party of Canada’s main message from the onset of this election.

The Conservatives believe raising the specter of a possible Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition forming the next government will translate into voters opting for a “stable” Conservative majority.

In other words, the Conservatives are pinning their hopes on fear.

It’s not a bad strategy. Fear works in politics.

But, in my view, the Conservatives played the “Coalition fear card” too aggressively and too soon for maximum effectiveness.

Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was blasting the Coalition even before the writ was dropped.

On the day the House of Commons was dissolved the Conservatives sent out a news release with the headline: “Only Stephen Harper Can Deliver The Stable National Government That Canada Needs To Complete The Economic Recovery and Keep Taxes Low.” The subtitle read: “The alternative is Ignatieff’s reckless Coalition backed by the Bloc Québécois.”

In the short term, of course, this worked like a charm.

The media, which is always more interested with the “politics of politics” than with boring policy issues, eagerly latched onto the Conservative’s Coalition spin and played it up.

Thus in the opening days of the campaign, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was peppered with media questions about whether or not he would form a Coalition.

Fortunately, for the Conservatives, Ignatieff’s initial response was poor. Rather than just dismissing Harper’s Coalition stratagem as a “phony issue” designed to distract voters from the “real issues”, he opted instead to deny, deny, deny.

Going on the defensive like that is never a good idea. Consider Richard Nixon’s famous, “I am not a crook” defence.

As they say in the communications business, “when you’re denying, you’re dying.”

Plus Ignatieff’s denials about forming a Coalition were couched in terms that were just vague enough to leave room for interpretation.

More importantly nobody believed him anyway.

All this, no doubt, did make Canadians wary and fearful for a lot of reasons.

 Coalition governments are not the norm in this country. Many Canadians would be uneasy about the socialist NDP having a say in running the economy. Most of all, Canadians would instinctively reject the idea of a federal government propped up by the separatist Bloc.

However, the important question is this: can the Conservatives sustain the fear of a Coalition government over a six week period?

That’s a long time in politics.

Certainly, it’s enough time for Canadians to get used to the idea of a Coalition.  It’s also enough time for voters to get bored with the Conservative’s “reckless Coalition” refrain or possibly to generate a backlash.

More importantly, it’s enough time for the Liberals to figure out a way to change the channel and to go on the attack.

That’s why it would have been better for the Conservatives had they waited until say a week before Election Day to hammer away at the “Be very afraid of the Coalition” theme.

They could have blitzed the TV airwaves with ads saying things like, “Do you want Jack Layton as Canada’s next Minister of Finance?” or “Michael Ignatieff wants the Bloc Quebecois to run Canada!”

That would have certainly stirred things up and perhaps driven undecided voters into the Tory camp.

The point is holding off your most lethal attack to the last minute works because most casual voters only start paying attention to the campaigns in the last few days before they vote.

Plus by holding off, you don’t give the opposition enough time to formulate a counter-attack.

None of this is to say the Conservatives current strategy won’t work.

But it would have worked better had they held their fire a little bit longer.


18 comments:

wilson said...

Now that Canadians are of the mind Iffy did it before he will do it again,
next phase is to be looking at all policies thru the coalition lense.

example: federal loan guarantees to Nfld hydro deal PMSH today is talking about.
Iffy says is is behind the move (me too),
Duceppe says no way.
Who will win that argument.....?

Yah, we KNOW an Iffy coalition govt will not be 'allowed' to give support to Nfld hydro or the seppies would pull their support.

And Jack and Gilles want to shut down the 'tar' sands,
so no matter what Iffy says,
his coalition partners will get their way, or they pull their support.

So no, it was not too soon to play the coalition card.
This IS the real alternative to a Harper majority,
NDP/Bloc appeasement to keep Libs in power.

Edmund Onward James said...

I keep hearing jets and jails. Is that better? Frankly, I think the conservatives will go on to other issues and discuss their platfrom and come back to coalitions.

Anonymous said...

Did they lead with it or did the MSM lead with it? I dont think Harper had any pull on this, the media needed its first pound of flesh and got it from Ignatief, so, they've just moved on now to the double dare ya one on one debate fiasco. If you have not seen the Colbert Report from last night about Canada's election google it..it pretty much sums up this election.

AToryNoMore said...

Too soon to tell, but it seems reasonable that there may be a battle royale looming in the Tory campaign. Once the campaign wonkyness sets it, its tough to shake.

Finger pointing???.. bet its wild!

Where do they go from here?

AToryNoMore said...

Wilson Said
4:36 PM

Wilson put the same thing up word for word on another blog....ooh desparate times eh Wilson?

eh, what eh.

AToryNoMore said...

Wilson said
4:36 PM

Sorry Wilson, I believe that I may be mistaken. That your post is an original post. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Would Conservatives rather the big story out of the gate be about contempt or coalition?

It is getting thin now but I suspect people are not paying attention to this whorefest yet.

If in the dying days of the campaign the status quo is still in the cards (that is a strong minority Cons. win) then I guarantee this topic will come up.

The coalition raised Harper's numbers to nearly 50% for a brief moment. Loosed lips dippers and Libs (and sepratists for that matter) might play into Harpers hand in that scenario.

L said...

The coalition is top of mind for western Canada - believe me! The last proposed did not work, but the next one will be covert, with the BLOC agrring to support (under the table), thereby excluding the views of CPC voters across Canada. It is and will remain a huge issue.

AToryNoMore said...

Well he is near the train tracks in this video. Maybe the campaign is off the rails?

As a fiscal conservative, presently homeless, I say, it looks really good on them!

Watch the video below.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/video/video-harper-takes-heat-from-reporters/article1965790/

Anonymous said...

Not really, the Tories don't need to say anything to "raise the specter" of the coalition. It's always been there in Parliament through the committees.

The Tories can easily pick up the 12 or so seats to achieve majority.
Won't take much of a swing vote to oust out more liberal seats.

The coalition is real in the sense that it could very well happen, but each of them are still going to compete a little to try and get as much power within those confines as possible. So as to gain the most influence within it.
The candidate sacrificial horse trading between them was likely already in place before the writ drop and will likely continue until the first votes start.

Like wilson eloquently said:
"This IS the real alternative to a Harper majority,
NDP/Bloc appeasement to keep Libs in power.
"



So this election is more about how big that majority will get. That isn't to say the Tories won't possibly loose some seats, but that they'll have a clear net gain by the end of this.

These are in clear need of being ousted. We don't need such shaky minorities. Lets give the CPC a clear mandate. In the direction of Mike Harris one at that!

@ATORYNOMORE

I've posted and or rehashed good talking points I've made on different sites, so what. (<--notice the lack of a question mark, as I'm really not interested in anything you have to say in reply....*yawn*)

If you were a fiscal conservative you would still vote conservative based on the canidates. If you had any backbone you vote for them for theri forign policy alone and focus the fiscal stuff provicially & locally where the lime light is most dim.

Too much is focused federally when Ontario is a silent disaster constantly being eroded by the nanny state tax&spend liberals.
They may be less "activist" than their federal cousins but no less the social engineers!

Unless your goal is to have your riding repersented by the oppostion/closet~coalition. It would indeed be more practial to vote for the "lesser evil". Which the CPC is hardly "evil" and stands in clear enough moral/ethical/fiscal contrast to the other parities including the fringes.

So enough the the puritism. A real libertarian is gonna vote for the next best thing, not all or nothing. How else do you get the ball rolling... twidle your thumbs?

(rhteorical; again--I'm already disinterested in your opinion. I won't be revisiting this specific comment section as I've said what I've needed to say.)

"Tewdles!"

Anonymous said...

Talking about the coalition should continue. Not everyone watches news 24/7 and for some it takes time to have the reprecussions of what it would mean sink in.
What PM Harper is saying is correct. A Harper Majority or a coalition that would be a gong show and mega taxes.

AToryNoMore said...

"Tewdles!"

10:20 PM

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For a person that rattles along as much as you have, its remarkable how little you have to say.

Sean M said...

I'm pleased that the Conservatives came out swinging against the real reason we are having an election. The Liberal party stuck in the polls in the mid 20's force an election because they have a deal with the Separatists and the NDP that doesn't run out until June 30 2011. The Liberals were caught off gaurd and quickly changed the channel to the non denial, denial of no coalition, but if PM Harper and the Conservatives win a minority and introduce the same budget we'll take them down and see if we ( Liberals) have the support of the Commies and the Separatists to govern. Which is why the Separatists and the NDP are only campaigning against the Tories and not campaigning against the Liberals. A necessary coalition, not necessarily called a coalition.

Anonymous said...

Anon@10:20: he's so disinterested in his opinion that he wrote a "if you have back bone vote CON HURR DURR" -- -too long don't read it.

ward said...

Gerry, what party goes to the polls trailing its opponent by 15 points - and gambles 20 million buck of extremely hard to find donations to do so?

I'd say a party that knows it does not have to win a majority or a minority to install itself into power.

The election result that is being banked on by the oppositon is Conservative minority.

They will use that to install themselves into power after the fact, despite denying it.

Answer me this Gerry, what mechanism exists to remove an unelected coalition majority from power after they have awarded themselves power. (hoping the coalition gets bored of writing themselves cheques from the national treasurey and as such falls apart is not an answer)

And I would appreciate an answer Gerry.

wilson said...

Watch tonight's At Issue on CBC (gag),
Chantal Hebert says the federal election is already watercooler talk, very early in the campaign, and people are debating the coalition...

The coalition of losers talk needs to be THE ballot question,
a stable competent government,
or an Iffy coalition of losers.

Iffy Libs apparently are going to lay out their entire platform this weekend, get it out of the way maybe,
so they will be opening all those 'brown envelopes' from civil servants and other nasty scandals.

Anonymous said...

I agree that political parties should hold their best attacks for the last week. However the Coalition is not some cheap attack ad topic. It is the biggest issue in the election and a winning issue for the Tories. Holding it back would only weaken it as an issue.

The die has now been cast. The campaign started on the Coalition, and if it ends on it too it will be a Conservative landslide. The last week will be very interesting as the press begins to speculate on the coalition possibilities.

Rick G

Gordie_Canuk said...

Problem for Harper is the fact he signed a deal with the Bloc himself to topple to Martin led Liberals...and more and more people are now becoming aware of this fact which makes Harper look like even a bigger hypocrite than he normally does.