11.27.2012 07:45 AM

In today’s Sun: quotes and votes work – and they worked against us in Calgary Centre

In political war rooms, it’s called “quotes and votes.”

Digging up embarrassing old statements by an opponent and publicizing them, that is. Also, dusting off long-ago missed legislative votes, or questionable expenditures or travel.

When you get a quote that hurts your adversary, you leak it to a media organization. Once the media report on the statement, the political party then can bray and screech about how offended and outraged it is.

The outrageous Justin Trudeau quote about Alberta, by now, is well-known to all.
In a 2010 interview on a French-language program, Trudeau said Canada wasn’t doing well because “it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda.”

I think it was a dumb thing to say, and not just because I’m a member of the Alberta diaspora. If an Alberta MP had said it about Quebec, Trudeau et al would be rightly upset.

Now, as I said in Sunday’s column, politicians regularly say dumb things, and no one is ever truly shocked or appalled when they do.

Politicians and media pretend to be shocked and appalled, but voters aren’t. They’ve seen it all before.

What was interesting, therefore, was something else entirely — the way in which the three main political parties handled the controversy.


  1. Nasty Bob says:

    I think the damage was done when Dalton’ bro opened his blood clot ( we Lib voters no longer speak his name in Alberta). His comment was a real momentum killer. It also showed how broken the once mighty Liberal election machine has become. Didn’t anybody think to send out a memo along the lines of ” we have a very good chance of getting Calgary Centre so if you don’t have anything nice to say about Alberta or Albertans keep your yap shut !!!” The Trudeau quote was just an insurance goal and probably wouldn’t have even been played had he who’s name we don’t speak not scored into his own net

  2. Peter says:

    Well, it’s obvious, the left needs to be united. The Calgary Centre tally at the end of the night, was a microcosm repeat of the national election.
    Between the Green and Liberals, Crockett would be a foot note this morning…crushed.

    The Left must unite…or this will go on and on…especially since our electoral system is predisposed to political parties winning with a low approval rate.

    Harper does see the left uniting, eventually.

    This Calgary Center election will wake Canadians up to the fact that a candidate can win…with getting less than 40% of vote…with abysmal low turn outs at the polls. Once again.

    And Harper will do all he can to make sure all those newly created ridings are basically present Conservative strongholds sliced in half.

    It’s a sad day..but an invaluable lesson…as for Justin Trudeau…Martin Lawrence has penned a column in the G&M that says it all.

  3. WDM says:

    Some random thoughts on what happened last night:

    – I’m not convinced they’re going to have this kind of impact in general elections, but the Greens are going to be a major player in a lot of by-elections. The results last night will encourage solid candidates to run, and their ability to focus entire national resources on individual races will make them competitive. Was sorry they didn’t win in Victoria last night. Their presence in by-elections will be one more thing Liberals and New Democrats will have to take note of.

    – They may play nice when the general election comes, but Calgary-Centre could be a microcosm of what to expect in many, particularly urban, ridings in Alberta. Nomination battles will be between PC-leaning and Wildrose-leaning candidates, and the two sides aren’t exactly getting along lately. Crockatt was on the WR end of the spectrum and getting 37% reflects that PCs weren’t enthralled with the idea of voting for her. This wasn’t a case of a two-horse race with both parties going over the 40% plateau. The Greens gained 25% as well. More than 6 in 10 voted for someone other than a Conservative. Six new ridings in Alberta coming as well, they’ll be interesting to watch unfold.

    – Get a good candidate, enthuse the base – and lots can happen. It’s a long road back, and they didn’t win last night, but Liberals have to go do that in every riding in this country. Re-engage the base, build up local riding associations. Never know what’s going to happen to your opponents, so be ready.

  4. Joey Rapaport says:

    Once Trudeau wins, hope they’ll hire you, at least the next race will be competitive finally!

  5. Andy B says:

    It seams to me that the Sun “broke” the story not the Conservitive Party. Gets your facts straight.

    • Warren says:

      Says the guy who spells like he’s in grade two.

    • Ted B says:

      Yes, because the Sun has so much excess cash that they send kids in their pajamas trolling through 2 year old French-language TV shows looking for quotations on a backbench MP/leadership candidate.

      There is no WAY that the Conservatives would have slipped this information to their good friends and supporters at Sun. No way at all.

      Get your reality straight.

  6. J.W. says:

    Shouldn’t the Liberals and NDP be linking Wildrose with right wing extremism of the most dangerous kind and throwing it in the face of the Conservative Government. This is a fight back issue.
    How many Conservative MP’s supported the Wildrose in the Provincial election? Crockatt apparently was a Wildrose TV pundit in the last election. Must be some good tape there?
    Kenney and others are de facto Wildrose members. I know Alberta Conservative feelings are easily hurt by criticism, but is this not an attack opportunity for Libs and NDP?
    And we have a few Conservative MP’s and cabinet ministers from Ontario who are Mike Harris clones, but they never used that either.
    A long way to go Warren, but great column, a blueprint.

  7. smelter rat says:

    Calgary Center had a voter turnout of 30%. They got the MP they deserve.

  8. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I’m with you and Peter. What do we have to do to have it sink into some progressive heads…??? Truly unbelievable.

  9. Eric Weiss says:

    Interesting take. McGuinty’s self flagilation was over the top. I think JT’s lack of response and delayed apology probably extended the news cycle on the story. Most people wanted to see JT come out and explain himself, not have a spokesman do it.

    The LPC have been using old Harper quotes against him since he became leader of the Alliance. Do you still think they have any traction?

    And what would be the point of the NDP attacking JT for quotes that most of their Quebec base probably agree with?

  10. Eric Weiss says:

    The Liberal brand is still pretty toxic here, many Albertans would vote Green before they ever vote Liberal. I know a lot of disgruntled CPC supporters that have gone that way.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Yet the Libs came in second. Is saying that the “Liberal brand is still pretty toxic here, many Albertans would vote Green before they ever vote Liberal” a bit like saying “People don’t go to that restaurant anymore, it’s too busy”?

      • Eric Weiss says:

        I said many, not all. And I’m just drawing from personal experience from people I know. I never presumed to speak for all voters in Alberta or Calgary Center. And yes the Liberal brand is still pretty toxic here, nobody knows that better than Alberta Liberals. Can it be turned around? Is the good turnout for the Liberals a trend? Time will tell.

  11. MoeL says:

    When I see vote splitting like we had in these by-elections, I wish we had a preferential balloting system. Do we really want to unite the left/right and end up with a two party system? I don’t think so. The parties all use either preferential balloting or runoffs to choose a leader… no first past the post here. Actually, I think that this is the Liberal party’s official stance on electoral reform. We might even see higher turnouts since most votes would count (i.e. almost everyone would end up voting for one of the two finalists). Does anyone know if it would take a constitutional change to go to a preferential balloting system or would a simple act of parliament suffice?

  12. David Roberts says:

    The last Forum Research poll (data collected before JT’s comments came to light) was within a couple of percentage points of the actual election results for all the parties. I don’t see any evidence that Trudeau’s comments had any bearing on the election result. Either way, with only 29% of the electorate coming out to vote vs. 55% in the general election it torques logic to extrapolate out much in any case.

  13. A. Cynic says:

    WC, I think this quote says it all:
    “…..So, next time the Cons invite you to a “quotes and votes” knife fight, Grits, do this:
    Bring a gun…..”

    I have been saying since at least 2006, we Liberals have lost our Grit. We tried the Mr. ‘above-it-all’ approach with poor results.

    I hope the brass and powers that be in LPC take heed to your suggestion/s. Thanks.

  14. Michael Bussiere says:

    I’m with you on this although I don’t think the reverse Alberta/Quebec comparison is entirely valid. Preston Manning once referred to a debate between Chretien and Bouchard as “a family feud”. Chretien responded by pointing out the Libs won 3 times the seats outside of Quebec as Reform. Manning later called for no more PMs from Quebec. No apology was issued, even though we are talking about a linguistic/ethnic minority.

    All that said, the JT interview immediately made me a Garneau supporter, the only candidate with serious career credentials, certainly more than Harper has ever held before becoming Leader of the Opposition. The Calgary Sun even referred to Garneau as “a Canadian hero”. Hard to imagine, but true.

  15. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Garneau gets in tomorrow. Will he be the last candidate? I suspect that will prompt a lot of fellow Liberals to start kicking some tires. For my part, I will decide quickly in which direction I’m going as soon as the final roster is set. We owe all the candidates at least that.

  16. I don`t know about everybody else, but when I have a need to “park” my vote, I always go Green.

    I also know that in Alberta, the young DO vote. (Nenshi) and just about everyone still in school being taught and thoroughly educated re: environment.

  17. Michael says:

    Seems to me that Albertans are just too touchy. Harper can piss on central Canada’s rug all he wants, and build firewalls around Alberta. That’s ok. Anyone says anything about Alberta, well thems fightin words.

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