08.18.2015 02:25 AM

KCCCC Day 16: this week’s Hill Times column

KINGSTON – ‎If there is anything remarkable about campaign 2015, it’s that it isn’t remarkable at all.
Despite all the Sturm und Drang about Nigel Wright’s testimony, or the leaders’ debate, or ‎the attack ads, nothing seems to be registering.

It has been a meandering, vague sort of affair, one without a centre. It’s the Seinfeld campaign‎, to invoke a Nineties cliche.

1984,1993 and 2006 were about throwing the bums out. 1988 was about an actual issue. 2008 and 2011 were about Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks. 1997, 2000 and 2004 were about ‎sticking with the Known over the Unknown.

2015? It’s about nothing, so far.

The New Democrats, flush from the victory in Alberta and a fistful of promising polls, had been dreaming about redecorating 24 Sussex. They seemed confident, even cocky.

Not so much anymore. The NDP war room has been AWOL from the start – and Tom Mulcair has sounded like Medicated Tom, not Angry Tom. His debate performance was the worst of all the leaders. And his party has badly stumbled over controversies involving candidates, on everything from keeping oil in the ground, to accusing Israel of war crimes.

The Liberals, meanwhile, needed a solid debate performance by Justin Trudeau, and he gave them one. In the days following the debate, however, Trudeau made two critical errors ‎that undercut whatever he achieved in the debate.

One, he fell into the hole the Conservatives and the New Democrats dug for him – with “just not ready” and “not up to the job,” respectively – and he commenced digging deeper.

Instead of changing the channel on the Tory/Dipper narrative, Trudeau embraced it. He attempted to answer the allegation, in TV spots and campaign appearances. “I’m ready,” he said, doing precisely what his opponents had hoped he’d do.

Departed Liberal guru Keith Davey said it best. “If the other guys says you’re fat,” the Rainmaker once famously observed, “Don’t say ‘I’m not.’ Say: ‘You’re ugly.'”
Trudeau’s second mistake was providing evidence in support of the attacks. At a campaign stop out West, Trudeau said: “We’re proposing a strong and real plan, one that invests in the middle class so that we can grow the economy not from the top down the way Mr. Harper wants to, but from the heart outwards.”

The Sun chain and the National Post had a field day with the “from the heart” line. The Sun even put Trudeau’s head on a Care Bear on its front page. Later, no less than the CBC got in on the act, and some Liberals started to privately wonder if they were witnessing a Stockwell Day of the Left. Will we now measure our GDP with hugs?

Define or be defined: nothing matters as much in politics as that. And, as long as Trudeau continues to debate the way in which his opponents have defined him, he will remain where he is – in third place.

The Conservative campaign, meanwhile, has not been without its challenges, the aforementioned Duffy trial among them. There has been the Oshawa Conservative MP inviting children to a fundraiser at a gun range – and there has been the spectacle of the Tory campaign battling with a provincial Premier over a pension plan, when said Premier’s name isn’t even on the ballot.

In the main, though, a campaign about nothing probably favours the Prime Minister. He knows that he is unlikely to ever win any Mr. Congeniality contests. But he is also likely grateful that the campaign has not turned solely into a referendum about him.

Instead, if there is anger, it has yet to crystallize around a single issue or theme. ‎Despite the predictions of the commentariat, nobody seems to be particularly angry about the fact that the campaign happened early, or that it is so long. They don’t seem to be angry about anything.

Here in Kingston, in a riding the Liberals have held for decades, the candidate is a mouthy, unintelligent former mayor. He has signs up around town, but they all seem to be on public land.

On Kingston’s privately-owned front lawns – and on lawns from Kingston to Kelowna – not many signs‎ are up. Nobody seems to be paying much attention to Election 42.

That may be because it is still Summer. That may be because the campaign so long.

My hunch: it’s because it is a campaign about nothing. And nothing is what Canadians are thinking about it.


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    MississaugaPeter says:

    Great synopsis on debates, campaigns and election.

    However, Duffy fiasco will find the CONServatives in third and in the mid to low 20s in all polls by the end of the month (Leger poll is only the first). It is unavoidable. It is worth tens of millions of dollars of free advertising for the NDP and Liberals. And Duffy is yet to testify!

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      MississaugaPeter says:

      Well, today’s Nanos disagrees. The only thing it does confirm is what I heard was happening on the ground and stated three weeks ago, that the NDP would pass the Liberals in Atlantic Canada before the end of the summer (NDP running behind just by 7% – 45% vs. 38%).


      Everywhere else, over the week, the NDP sunk 1.4% (at 29.0%), CONS up 0.6% (at 31.8%) and Liberals steady/up 0.1% (at 28.8%). Which confirms WK’s synopsis.

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        Alex says:

        We have to take polls with a giant grain of salt. Forum polls are not credible, while Nanos has this weird tracking system in which they sample 250 people per week, and then use a 4-week running average. The result is that Nanos’ provincial numbers are particularly wonky, while any momentum shifts could take weeks to show up in their data. Leger is more credible, but they were pretty Quebec-heavy in their sampling for their last poll.

        The large picture, however, reveals interesting things. If you look at all of the polls for the 2011 election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_in_the_Canadian_federal_election,_2011) you will see that: 1) the Harperites were ahead in every poll that election; 2) the lowest they polled was 33.7%; and c) most of their numbers were in the mid-to-high 30s to low 40s. They also led every poll in the year before the election.

        If contrast, if you look at the polls in this election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_42nd_Canadian_federal_election) the Cons have not scored over 31% in a single poll during the writ period. Prior to the election, they were trailing most polls, and have also been behind in the majority of polls during Elxn42. In other words, the ceiling for the Harperites so far in this election is lower than their floor in 2011.

        I would not put a lot of stock in one poll, or even a handful of polls. Once we look at the general trends, however, we can see that the Cons are currently well below their 2011 numbers. The best that they can hope for at this time is a so-so minority which likely would be defeated by the opposition parties. But as many have already said, a lot can happen in two months.

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          Vancouverois says:

          On the other hand, this campaign is more than twice the length of the 2011 campaign, which was the minimum 36 days (37 if you count voting day).

          Let’s see where we are on September 12, and see what trends emerge from then onwards. It’s the home stretch that counts, after all.

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        Pat says:

        “The only thing it does confirm is…”
        Conservatives up big in Ontario again…121 seats…NDP reverting to its long term average.

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      adam says:

      Leger is an online panel not a poll. In the US they aren’t counted in aggregates as they aren’t valid. They are self selected. Who do you think is self selecting to be in an online panel now?

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    gyor says:


    Its worth looking all the numbers beyond who people intend to vote for, it tells a larger story, one that’s not good for Harper.

    I was certain that Harper would at least be second, but the Leger numbers suggest Harper maybe in more trouble then I thought, and it could still get worse, alot worse.

    Its not good for Trudeau either, he is seen as best on no issues, and the vast majority of voter second choices are in favour of the NDP, who are already in the lead. The Liberals are irrelivent in Quebec, which is pure disaster for the Liberals, if that continues into October, you will likely see the ABC vote coalse around the NDP, which could push the Liberals back into third.

    The only concern for the NDP is that they’re numbers in Alberta, Sask, and Manitoba have taken a hit, likely thanks to McQuaig, but I believe its fixible. I expect Mulcair to hit the praires soon for damage control.

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    Tim Gallagher says:

    A poll just released in Sask has Cons 39, NDP 35 and the Libs 22. Meanwhile, the Liberals lost a candidate in Quebec so the parties are starting to even out on that front (by now the parties must plan to lose at least two per election, hide another few and bunker down for a few others). If the Quebec Liberal candidate’s defense (about someone else posting on his Facebook account without him knowing about it) holds that could give everyone one bad Facebook comment freebie! And what the hell, maybe that’s a good thing.

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      Vancouverois says:

      There are two separate issues involving Liberal candidates in Quebec. The guy who had something pro-separatist posted on his Facebook page is one, and (as far as I know) he’s still running. The one who quit is Francine Bélair, who failed to settle an issue with the Quebec chief electoral officer’s office.


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        Tim Gallagher says:

        There’s another storm brewing today about a young Liberal candidate in Calgary and her tweeting history. Don Martin ‏@DonMartinCTV 6m6 minutes ago
        Attention @JustinTrudeau: You should see the tweets allegedly coming from your Calgary Liberal candidate Ala Buzreba via @SheilaGunnReid

        Although the candidate has blocked her twitter account the material has been captured.

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          Tim Gallagher says:

          https://twitter.com/InklessPW/status/633653687001444352 Context regarding Calgary candidate’s tweets

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            Vancouverois says:

            Yikes! That won’t be good press, even if she is responding to obvious trolls.

            On the other hand, I note it was back in 2011, when she was (she now says) a teenager. And (presumably) a private citizen rather than a Liberal candidate.

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    Phil Evans says:

    Here’s an interesting tidbit:

    When questioned about how much the PMO knew about the Duffy trial, Harper’s response the evidence (!!!!) was:

    “I don’t accept that particular rendition of the facts,”

    A page out of the not so successful Del Mastro defence playbook.


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    Terry Brown says:

    Front page of the Globe today says Trudeau’s “I’m ready” spots are being positively received by voters. Not saying that he shouldn’t change the channel, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt him. Same with the “heart” comment. Dorky but is anyone actually talking about it? The election is literally months away. I feel like one of the candidates could be caught on film peeing in a bus shelter and still have time to recover by October.

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    hollinm says:

    Trudeau can’t help himself. He is an inexperienced kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth who wants to be a celebrity rather than a serious candidate for the job of Prime Minister. Nobody is paying attention to him. If you think he won the debate by yapping like a spoiled kid then you are biased in that assessment. With each pronouncement he sounds unserious because he has no clue what an ordinary middle class family goes through on a daily basis. As far as Mulcair is concerned he is a socialist who would tax and spend us to death. Despite polls I don’t believe Canadians will vote for a socialist who would reduce their standard of living through higher taxes.

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      Brian Nicholson says:

      Straight from the Conservative playbook.

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        Hollinm says:

        How very intellectual of you. Dispute what I said. Cat got your tongue? Not surprising.

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    JH says:

    Other recent polls and Jean LaPierre say Harper gaining seats in Quebec and the NDP overtaking the Liberals in Atlantic Canada. Friends in PEI say they will lose Charlottetown and Sean Casey to the NDP.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      CPC chances will be by and large in the Quebec seats they won in 2008 but later lost.

      In Quebec City, Gérard Deltell is their shining star. He will win Louis-St-Laurent with at least sixty percent of the vote.

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    davie says:

    Tv ad that is very effective is the one where the young woman is jabbing her finger and saying to the Conservative government, “Stick it.”

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    Kji says:

    I’m an anonymous asshole. Send me spam. kjiasdn@yahoo.com

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    Hawaii Five Oh says:

    Duffy, 90k$$ payoff , trial, witnesses, CBC catawollering
    bet-a-buck no OPP announcements before Oct. election re Kathleen Wynne criminal investigations involving unknown $$billions,, wasted stolen squandered

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    John Matheson says:

    Harper is the issue.

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