I think it was former Maple Leaf enforcer Tie Domi who once said of hockey fights, “It’s not how many you win, it’s how many you show up for.”
And to its great shame and disgrace, the National Citizens Coalition did not show up for the Ontario election fight.
The NCC, once a scrappy champion for freedom, tamely stood on the sidelines during this election and watched as big union bosses poured millions of dollars into a media campaign that not only attacked and degraded the PCs but which also put forward a left wing agenda.
The left won the persuasion war essentially by default because the NCC surrendered the field.
(Full disclosure: I worked at the NCC for more than 20 years, until 2007 when I was fired after criticizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not sticking to his conservative principles.)
It makes me angry.
The NCC was created, after all, specifcally to speak up for freedom and to do battle in the arena of ideas. In the old days the NCC was ready, willing and eager to take on all comers, whether that meant battling government bureaucrats or union bosses or political parties.
We were a David taking on an army of Goliaths.
Today, by contrast, the NCC is a pussycat.
Now to be fair, the NCC did squeeze their donors for cash to pay for a “Dump Dalton” campaign. But it never amounted to anything but a pathetic joke. They had a low-budget website and a video ad that is embarrassingly bad, so bad I doubt it ever aired.
The upshot is the NCC didn’t make a peep. It was totally off the radar throughout a crucial election.
Now I don’t expect the NCC to match the unions dollar for dollar when it comes to media ad campaigns, but they should at least have the resources to make some sort of impact.
Back in the 1995 Ontario election, for example, the NCC was a force to be reckoned with. We ran hard-hitting and effective TV ads, we aired radio spots, put up billboards and published newspaper ads. We made news. We made a difference. And in a tight race, every little bit matters.
So why didn’t the NCC take on Premier McGuinty in any meaningful manner? Why didn’t it try to offset the union boss propaganda campaign? And never mind the paid media stuff. Why didn’t the NCC so much as publish an op ed in a major newspaper to express an opinion? To be blunt, why did they let their supporters and conservatives down?
And by the way, the NCC has not undertaken any serious initiatives in the past four years. It has not taken on any court challenges. It has not mounted any sort of major media campaign. It has done nothing, nada, rien.
Oh that’s not quite true, it still collects in lots of donations to pay for salaries.
So what’s the problem?
Well to my mind there are two basic issues. First, the NCC has basically transformed itself into a cheer leading squad for the federal Conservatives. Rather than promoting a conservative agenda, they simply regurgitate Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s talking points. That’s their new role.
Secondly and more seriously, I believe the people leading the NCC simply don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know how to run a media campaign; they don’t know how to create an imaginative ad; they lack the ability to communicate to the public in a persuasive manner. I also suspect they don’t even truly understand conservative ideology. Simply put, they don’t fight because they don’t know how to fight.
So the end result is the left can run rampant, unopposed as they did in the Ontario election. The NCC, in other words exists simply for the sake of existing. It really serves no useful function.
Of course, this happens to all groups after a while. They lose their way, they lose their original sense of purpose, they outlive the spirit that created them. And so it is with the NCC. It isn’t dead, but it isn’t exactly alive either. It’s a zombie shuffling along aimlessly with neither a brain or a soul.
Canada’s conservative movement deserves better.
We need in short, a strong voice for conservatism that will show up for the fights, no matter the odds, no matter the opponent.
Gerry Nicholls is a communications consultant and writer who has been called a “political warrior” a “brilliant strategist” and one of the “canniest political observers in Canada.”
He has worked as a consultant in both the United States and Canada and was formerly a senior officer in the National Citizens Coalition.
A regular columnist with the Ottawa Hill Times, his work has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post and in the Sun Media chain; and he has appeared on countless TV and radio public affairs programs. He is the author of the book, Loyal to the Core, Harper, Me and the NCC.
“Loyal to the Core is a daring and provocative work. It deserves to be read by conservative activists and politicos.” – Western Standard
“This is a very important book.” -- Michael Coren, TV host
“A fascinating read” --- Seamus O'Regan, Canada AM
“I really enjoyed Loyal to the Core. It’s a great book”, - Charles Adler, radio host.
"Loyal to the Core should be required reading for anyone considering or starting a career at a conservative think tank or in electoral politics in general …Consider Loyal to the Core a cautionary tale that’s also a funny, easy read – with a few highly “stealable” ideas for media campaigns thrown in for good measure.”- Kathy Shaidle, author Tyranny of Nice
“Every Canadian remotely interested in politics and the state of the country should have a read of Loyal to the Core. – blogger Wendy Sullivan
"It’s rare to find a politico, however, who is equally passionate about policy and strategy, but columnist, pundit, author and Western Standard blogger Gerry Nicholls is such a person." Matthew Johnson, owner Western Standard
"If you are a conservative who wonders how conservatives can communicate their message in a hostile media climate, Loyal to the Core is a must read." -- At Home in Hespeler
"You HAVE TO read this book!" -- Connie Fournier Free Dominion