08.31.2015 08:39 AM

KCCCC Day 29: last day of August, but where’s the winning narrative?


  • It’s the last day of August…and survey says the electorate don’t really want anyone to be government.
  • Check out that Abacus slide – all three parties are within three points of each other!


  • What’s that mean? That means the New Democrats have suffered an (inevitable) drop, the Conservatives and Liberals have benefitted (a little bit).  And it means that no one has (yet) captured the support of a plurality of voters.  Perpetual minority government, here we come!
  • The economy is the issue, as seen here and here.  The CBC’s Don Pittis has a smart analysis, here.  It’s logical, Watson: if (a) none of the parties is generating enough enthusiasm to break out of the pack and (b) voters believe the economy is the issue, then (c) that means none of the parties has crafted a winning narrative on the economy yet.
  • What is a winning narrative? Well, for starters, coming up with one is always easier to say than to do. Ask God, a.k.a. James Carville.  In 2010, in similar circumstances – coming out of a recession, some sectors/demographics still hurting badly – Carville said this: “The hardest thing to do in all of political communication is deal with a bad, but somewhat improving, economy.” Often, Carville (and others) note, it isn’t about coming up with “the Holy Grail” of economic plans in a confusing communications environment.  If such a quick fix existed, it would have been implemented long ago.
  • No, what we have here is a failure to communicate. You don’t have to change anything, just repackage it as a plan,” Carville advised President Obama back in 2010.  Voters are smart: they know that – for the big-ticket problems, and particularly the economic ones – the problems are myriad, and the range of solutions are myriad-er.  Ipso facto, Keep It Simple Stupid: keep talking, over and over, about two or three easy-to-understand ideas about making the economy better. Harper did that in 2006, 2008 and 2011.  I don’t really see him doing it in 2015.
  • People look at the economy through the prism of three things.  To wit: jobs, spending and the well-being of their families. To put together a winning economic story (because facts tell, but stories sell), you need to show folks how you will protect the jobs they’ve got, and how you’ll grow new ones.  You need to help them find a bit of extra cash to spend on something they think they need or want.  And you need to make them feel – make them know – that you can achieve all of that stuff without jeopardizing their future, or their kids’ immediate future.
  • Has any of the parties done that?  Nope, not from what I can see from my armchair.  Thus, their current predicament.  None of them has a winning narrative on the economy.  And – not surprisingly – none of them is therefore winning.


  1. JH says:

    I just want to thank you WK for your continuing analysis. Like many I have come to the point where I trust almost none of the media to provide a decent take on what is happening. They seem more tied up in partisanship sometimes, than the parties themselves, and more intent on pushing their own agendas. Though I know you’re (nominally?) a Liberal, I feel I can depend on your take to be fair and even handed. Once again keep up the good work and know it’s much appreciated.

    • Warren says:

      Thank you! Much appreciated.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Have to agree with JH. The Media Party isn’t even remotely subtle with their bias against the CPC. You have been far more objective.

      Thank you.

      Aside: This poll’s results for BC are starting to look a little more realistic, FWIW.

      • Matt says:

        NDP always poll way ahead of everyone in BC. But they always fall back to their normal support levels on election night.

    • lance mclean says:

      I agree, I really like your point of view Warren. It is hard to take the over the top partisanship 24/7. I do think you give a fair representation of what is going on.

      • Warren says:

        Many thanks. I’m feeling like most Canadians, to tell you the truth: usually vote Liberal, but wonder if their leader is ready; think Conservatives haven’t been as radical as some predicted, but wonder if they’ve been there too long; can’t warm up to Mulcair if I tried, but appreciate the fact that the Dippers have abandoned a lot of their past radicalism. Oh, and I think the Greens are okay, but I don’t know a lot about them.

        • ralphonso says:

          Now that is an excellent synopsis.

        • lance mclean says:

          Full disclosure, I vote conservative but I am not a right winger by any means. I would likely place myself as blue Liberal, and if I had the option I would vote for that. But with what we have as choices I am pretty disappointed. We have a Liberal Party trying to be a left wing party and a Left wing party trying to tell us they are moderate, yeah and I have some land to sell you. I live in AB and want to give our new NDP government ( also saying they are moderate) a chance but from the subtle signs that we are getting I am not sure they are up to the task and ideaology will likley win out over pragmatism. I would not want to put our whole country in that position with the Federal NDP. Trudeau and his crew, as you stated, just aren’t there yet.

        • Michael Bluth says:

          Great assessment WK.

          Length of time in office is the Conservatives biggest concern. Duffy/Wright was a sideshow which has already died down now that the trial is in recess.

          The ‘not ready’ ads have worked against Trudeau. He still is a very charismatic candidate. Can Tom warm up to the voting public?

          I suspect after Labour Day we will continue to see the Conservatives with a slight plurality in seat projections with all three parties in the same ball park for vote intention. Then the big question will be to the Liberals and NDP. Will they form a coalition? Either equivocations or flat out denials. It really isn’t in either parties best interest to say yes to that.

          The next Prime Minister will lead the party that holds the most seats in the House. As much as people go on about: coalitions being a legitimate part of our system, Harper signed some ambiguous letter a decade ago, etc. Coalitions just aren’t something Canadians are used to seeing. Unless all parties to a coalition are clear about their intentions to form a coalition before e-day, it just won’t fly.

          • doconnor says:

            “we will continue to see the Conservatives with a slight plurality in seat projections”

            What do you mean “continue to”? The NDP has lead almost all seat projections since the election was called.

            Which party will support the party with the most seats?

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Yeah, I agree. Warren has been a lot less partisan and very even handed this campaign plus he’s been adding a lot of very good (and unique compared to the other commentators) perspective. It’s gotten that this is now a site I check daily. I guess married life agrees with him!

  2. Matt says:

    But, but, but…..

    Forum said it’s going to be an NDP majority!

    Yes, that is sarcasm.

  3. james curran says:

    I don’t know much W. but I think my guy Justin is all about jobs and families from what I see and hear of him. Maybe I’m listening wrong.

  4. Ridiculosity says:

    Showing voters he will protect their jobs and create new ones, while helping them find a bit of extra cash?

    That’s exactly what Trudeau did last week when he rolled out his historic – and bold – investment plan to grow our economy, create jobs and strengthen the middle class.

    • ralphonso says:

      Hah! I love the messaging spam. The politicos and partisans think it helps – but they don’t understand that it just makes hate politics even more.

      Voters go on social media to interact with other voters. If voters can’t use social media without getting bombarded with the same messaging from partisans posing as everyday joes, they will tune out of politics completely.

      • The Doctor says:

        Tell me about it. I’m tempted to punch several friends of mine for the blatant, cheesy partisan spam they’re posting on facebook. God, it’s irritating.

        • Ridiculosity says:

          I suggest that partisan spam is typically only identified when you question/disagree with the party in question.

          • Marc says:

            No, partisan spam is party talking points phonied up as a person’s contribution to an authentic political discussion.

            They’re easy to spot. They feature sentence structures not found in social media postings, words that aren’t natural in online talk, and often reference odd things that just don’t really belong in the discussion.

            A reference to the middle class? A bit of structured hyperbole (“historic – and bold!) An awkward phrase pulled direct from messaging (“Grow the economy.”) Ending the message with a three-point list – your post was exhibit A.

            Look, I’m a Liberal voter – like most here – and I’m sure you mean well, but it turns people off completely. Please, just stop.

          • Derek Pearce says:


          • Scott says:

            I agree with Ridiculosity and there is nothing wrong with endorsing your chosen Parties platform.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    You won’t see me playing violin — or going bou, hou, hou, for the Conservatives. They basically got a free ride in the last election, with only 28 editorial board endorsements.

    Makes me wonder what they did to lose all that support.

  6. RogerX says:

    When examining the many national polling results, I notice that the BQ is blended into the national results which covers up their percentage support in Quebec.

    The BQ is shown as only getting ~5% of the ‘national’ vote, whereas they are getting ~20% of the vote in Quebec. Surely their national standing is irrelevant since they only exist in Quebec.

    Since the BQ is only running in Quebec it contaminates the national polling numbers by including the BQ in those numbers. Algebraically it is wrong to blend a unique value into a general value if the unique value is not part of the general solution.

    Perhaps the pollsters should not include the BQ in national numbers and separate Quebec from the ROC to show a truer picture of what is happening. If this was done, the NDP national numbers would likely drop while the Liberal and Conservative national numbers would likely rise because the NDP is still very high in Quebec.

    Arguing that Quebec is part of Canada and there should be no discrimination is a fallacious argument because BQ is not part of Canada. There is no need to separate the provinces in the ROC because they do not contain BQ candidates. Also, it should be noted that the Conservatives won their 2011 majority in the ROC without the need for the Quebec MPs. The NDP is currently ~60% Quebec MPs and only ~40% ROC MPs.

    I submit that polls that blend the BQ into the Canadian results are not only wrong, they’re misleading. A truer “national” picture would be to show a Quebec only polling result and then a ROC result, so, why do the pollsters continue blending the BQ into the ROC when they know they are algebraically and politically wrong doing so?

    • RogerX says:

      Correction here:

      Perhaps the pollsters should not include the BQ in national numbers and separate Quebec from the ROC to show a truer picture of what is happening. If this was done, the NDP ROC numbers would likely drop while the Liberal and Conservative ROC numbers would likely rise, because the NDP is still very high in Quebec.

    • Doogie says:

      I noticed that discrepancy in poll reporting too and the question is, is it done intentionally, because pollsters are also mathematicians of sorts. Regardless, each major party does intensive internal polling to get their own read on things. e.g. the Liberal strategists must have determined that Justin was failing on the economic file so they resurrected Paul Martin to prop him up, but, to now announce a Liberal government would run deficits until 2019 is puzzling.

      The only thing I can think of is that a federal Liberal government would run deficits at it’s preferential higher bond rating than could floundering Ontario with it’s grim bond rating, and in that way finance infrastructure for Ontario and Quebec too…… $125 Billion worth over 4 years. Undoubtedly that would please Premier Wynne because it would avoid her raising Ontario taxes and thus piggybacking on federal money from all Canadians!

  7. pod says:

    My take for what it’s worth.

    LIBS – on the way up – mainly because of the economic platform last week
    Dippers- on the way down- Have Nobody of any credibility within that party
    Cons- Hold (no movement) People are just tired of the bullying and tactical lies to Cover the party ass. People do NOT like being lied to by their government. Very untrustworthy.

    • davie says:

      I know what you mean by the dippers and credibility.
      Imagine Mulcair with a cabinet made up of Scott, Boivin, Chisholm, Garrison, Ashton, Sims, Kellway, Julian, Nash, Christopherson, Toone, Stoffer, Harris, Dewar, Laverdiere, Leslie, Boulerice, Lefebvre, Saganish, Minh-Thu Quach, Cleary, Sandhu,…to name a few from the last parliament.

      …no credibility. None!

    • Doogie says:

      If you’re riding the polls you should bring your barf bag because the ride will be like a roller coaster….. up, down, sideways, upside down, inside out!

  8. gyor says:

    What this is is most of the electorate waiting till we get to October to see whose top dog of the antitory parties at which point they’re will be a massive shift in order to defeat the Tories. The one consistant thing is how much people hate the Tories.

  9. JPSD says:

    There may not be a winning narrative, but there is a losing narrative and that belongs entirely to the Conservatives.

    If they expect to be re-elected on the basis of continuity and “staying the course” then they are failing badly at articulating that message. The reality of the matter is any party that is in government for this long shows signs of fatigue. If polls are to be believed, then voters are increasingly looking for change. In the light of a less than stellar Canadian economy and troubles with ethical practices in the PMO, Harpers message of keep with us and you’ll get more of the same just isn’t palatable to voters.

    Yes, scaring voters in to voting for you because the other options just don’t seem as reliable -is a smart tactic. But you can’t do that when every negative aspect of your government is on display 24/7 in the news cycle. Hating the media won’t stop it either because its not managing the situation, its only going to choke out transparency and thus chip away at the trust placed in your governance

    • Luke says:

      On the other hand, does it matter?

      I think we all pretty much know, and have known for a few years now, exactly what we’ll get from the Conservatives under Harper. It’s all known, whatever we think of it. I could see, were I a voter who had voted conservative last time around, giving thought to voting that way again, if I was reasonably comfortable with the job they have done. I expect there’s a solid chunk of those who voted Conservative last time who would consider doing so again, failing a more promising alternative. They might think, “Sure, I don’t like x, y, and z, about Harper, but my life hasn’t really changed for the worse over the last few years and I don’t see anything better on offer…” I could see it.

      • Doogie says:

        You can bet all the professionals who earn over $200,000 annually they will be voting Conservative because the Liberals and NDP will raise their taxes, to help the middle and lower classes. e.g. your family doctor and surgeons who may operate on you with extreme prejudice!

        Business owners will avoid tax on their salary by increasing their dividend payouts, that is if they are profitable. Looks like this election will be fought on class warfare; thank you Justin and Thomas.

        • davie says:

          One of the bigger propaganda successes of the past many decades has been the wealthy convincing most of the rest of us that there is no such thing as class interests and class exploitation.

  10. cassandra says:

    the biggest group of electorate….is still the non-voters, wonder which party will succeed in winning them over

    • B. Wilson says:

      The ‘non-voters’, about 40% in the last election, are indirectly supporting the winning party and it’s government. By not voting, you are saying you accept the will of the majority eligible vote, and you can’t complain afterwards.

      The Harper Cons won 24% (~40% of 60%) in direct support, and the 40% who didn’t vote are by default giving the Cons 40% indirect support. And that’s how it works in democratic elections if not everybody votes!

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