Saturday, April 2, 2011

Week 1. Done.

Well, the first week has finished and the national polls are not showing us anything dramatically different. Done and dusted? Not at all.

What I find interesting is that there are actually a number of different conclusions to the first week of elxn41 (did I mention I am growing to love twitter shorthand and hash-tags?). Depending on what you read / who you follow / what you hear, the first week could be summed up as follows:

1. Harper maintains strong lead, growing support in key provinces. A majority is possible.

2. Harper performs poorly in the first week. PM appears on the defensive and not looking like the seasoned campaigner.

3. Liberals out of the gate strongly and making important gains. Ignatieff a clear winner after week one.

4. NDP struggles to get message out after first week.

5. Bloc cruising in Quebec.

If the above were possible answers to a multiple choice question, you could be forgiven for looking for the "all of the above option." Why? Because in many respects, they are all true.

The Conservatives continue to enjoy a healthy advantage, both nationally and in key battlegrounds, particularly in Ontario. This despite Mr. Harper having a poor week in which he has been criticized for (a) his rhetoric and tone (b) his relationship with the media and (c) his lack of engagement on policy.

The Liberals continue to trail nationally and in key provinces, despite the fact that they have had a strong week. They have demonstrated election readiness, an openness to engage and a commitment to presenting themselves as a option.

The NDP did cede ground to the Liberals during the week. There is a danger that any further slide could make this election an explicit Harper-Ignatieff choice among voters.

Finally, the Bloc did what it does. It cruises in Quebec and points to real and imagined imbalances between how the government of the day treats Quebec relative to other provinces. In this case, the issue is the Lower Churchill development in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, with that in mind what are my conclusions?

First, Mr. Igantieff will be pleased with a dialogue that focuses on a 2-horse race. While it is true a PM would only come from either the Conservative or the Liberal party, the fact that this is being more explicitly framed after only one week is important. If the Liberals are to have any success, they need to attract NDP voters, as well as centre-left Tories.

He will also be pleased with a week that has shown his ability to campaign and to offer a choice. His ability to connect with voters was a big question mark at the start of the campaign - the past week will have done a lot of good for the morale of his team and slate of candidates.

Second, Mr. Harper has spent a lot of time making the notion of minority Parliament something to fear. Interestingly, days 1-4 were more "coalition" focused in terms of his rhetoric. Days 5-7 transitioned (slightly) away from coalition and towards the suggestion that we need to end minority Parliaments.

It's the "let's put an end to unnecessary elections" argument. The fact that nearly 50% of Canadians are not averse to a majority would constitute some traction for this line of messaging. This should be followed closely. If this trend continues, Mr. Harper could move the yardsticks enough in those key swing ridings.

Third, the issues are getting an airing. The Liberals released large elements of a family- and education-focused platform. The Conservatives highlighted their budget and then followed that up with the income-splitting proposal. These are substantive issues, all worthy of discussion. More please.

So, those are some initial thoughts. Tomorrow I will blog about what I will be looking to see in week 2, and as well on the Liberal platform (issues!). In the meantime...



  1. Hey Guy Watching Politics,

    I do work in corporative PR, so ever since I saw Ignatieff running for his leadership campaign, it came to mind this story which in my line of work it's a classic!
    "Crystal Pepsi"
    About 20 years ago, pepsico thought of an alternative to caffeine drinks, so here it comes "crystal Pepsi" equating clearness with purity and health, they had a catchy slogan "You've never seen a taste like this" very cool ads and with Van Halen catchy tune "right one". Pepsico had very good response in their test markets, incredible, very innovative marketing, when it first came out was good but initial sales fell off really fast so they tried to reintroduce and reinvent a few times until finally it was draging the whole company down, losing enormous amounts of money, needless to say it was history, Dave Novak is credited with introducing the clear concept, had this to say:
    It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I've ever had and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think,"They don't get it, they don't see my vision." People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good. Once you have had a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it.

    Mmmm, sounds familiar?? Ignatieff good in theory, not so good in action.

    The problem with LPC has always been strategy, they have a terrible one, I know MI had a good week but he didn't win. He is very personable, engaging and has some good qualities they are taking advantage and that's a good thing, for the party loyals he is amazing but he needs to convince those undecided voters and there is where he will have trouble. because so far his narrative is empty, what he has proposed is not mind blowing and highly debatable (let's see what he says tomorrow). The LPC never tested its product, they never listened and he cannot pull it off in 36 days because so far in 700+ days he didn't connect, of course exposure will help to get ahead a bit on the polls and journalists are all over him because it is his first time around, but it will change (unless what happens tomorrow changes Canada's political, economical, social landscape with a 360)he will lose and I actually will predict a big defeat for the whole party.

    I will happily dissect later step by step where their strategy went wrong and why Harper's strategy works.(I have to go to bed, out of the country in business trip)

    Because at the end of the day, this election it is going to be won over strategy, not issues!

  2. Claudia,

    Thanks for your comments. I think you have raised some really interesting points, particularly in relation to the "market-ability" of a leader. I have wondered if he would have fared better over the past several months had he won the leadership through a proper convention. This would have allowed the party voters to road test him a bit more.

    Another observation that comes to mind is the potential disconnect between those of us who are "Ottawa watchers" and the general public. There appears to be a strong consensus that he has done well this past week (expectations were also not that high), but the polling data is not really capturing it. We'll see what transpires this week.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts - particularly when traveling out of Canada. International readers!


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