By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 29, 2012 - 0 Comments
Susan Delacourt reviews Political Marketing in Canada, which includes an interview with Conservative strategist Patrick Muttart.
“Close campaigns are decided by the least informed, least engaged voters,” Muttart told Lees-Marshment. “These voters do not go looking for political news and information. This necessitates brutally simple communication with clear choices that hits the voter whether they like it or not. Journalists and editorialists often complain about the simplicity of political communication, but marketers must respond to the reality that undecided voters are often not as informed or interested as the political and media class are.”
Political purists may clutch at their pearls when they hear that candour from Muttart, but realists have always known that modern campaigns are not fought in the intellectual salons. The contributors to this book, who would all be entirely at home in those salons, have actually done us a service in putting an academic frame around realpolitik. Collectively, they have charted that trajectory of politics out of academia into the marketplace, and then bounced it back into the ivory tower for rigorous, researched analysis.
The Obama campaign’s machine for creating and testing its advertising—as explained in this piece by Sasha Issenberg—seems to represent the latest frontier in political marketing.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3:32 PM - 0 Comments
Firstly, for these two stories, it seems that Canadian news media are not uniformly negative … Secondly, the political media are not nearly as preoccupied with partisan wrangling as is commonly believed … While our evidence challenges two of three common allegations against the news media, it supports the charge that the news media is not very informative. Our evidence suggests that citizens must sift through many news stories to find the information they seek. We also found a direct relationship between the focus of a news story and the amount of information about politics that it provides. It should be noted that it is not impossible to find informative process or political game stories, as we actually did find some. But the important point is that information on the issues in political game or process stories is rare.
(Note: Stories from Maclean’s were not included in this survey and so I am now free to sneer and shake my head at the failings of others.)
The survey covered a three-month period last fall—a majority government situation during which neither the New Democrats nor the Liberals had permanent leaders—and, in terms of Parliament Hill, looked specifically at coverage of three pieces of legislation. Given those terms, the second count—is the media too preoccupied with partisan brinksmanship?—likely requires further investigation. What sort of results, for example, would have come from a comprehensive investigation of the minority government years? Or perhaps the year before the next election?
The first count is a bit difficult to figure. I know and understand what Samara was trying to measure and I think I understand the general complaint, but I’m not sure I can say what the significance is of what they’ve found.
The third count, I think, is most relevant. I think it gets at a legitimate complaint and something the political press had to think seriously about. To what degree is political coverage difficult to understand or simply impenetrable to the casual observer? How many readers or viewers struggle to either keep up or, if coming to a story late, get up to speed? Anecdotal evidence is dangerous, but I’ll note here that the most popular thing I’ve written so far this year (at least in terms of pageviews) was this rough guide to C-38. That was published more than a month after the bill was tabled and owes a great deal to my editor’s judgment that it needed to be written at that point. I, having published dozens of blog posts and a magazine piece already on C-38, likely wouldn’t have otherwise paused to explain what was going on. But it seems to have met a need that existed.
This is ultimately, I believe, an argument for political coverage to be more comprehensive and thorough. (And online coverage more easily enables something like a rough guide to the budget implementation act: in a daily newspaper or nightly newscast that kind of piece might be lost or discarded by the next day, but online that rough guide can linger for more and more people to read and come back to.) And there is probably useful information in this Samara report for an industry that is presently struggling to figure out how to make itself valuable to consumers.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 9:13 AM - 0 Comments
John Geddes spoke to Deborah Coyne this morning. Click here to read the Q …
There might be more than one link to the glory days of Trudeau in the Liberals leadership contest.
While Pierre Trudeau’s eldest son, Justin, is reconsidering his stance on not entering the race the mother of his only daughter, Deborah Coyne, has joined the competition.
Coyne says she’s running because she believes Canadians are sick of partisan politics which gives the Liberals a chance to re-emerge as a party of “bold, principled” national leadership.
She doesn’t think that running against a Trudeau will be problematic, she told the Canadian Press.
“Our families have always been very separate so I have not been speaking to Justin Trudeau,” Coyne told The Canadian Press, wishing him “all the best” in whatever he decides to do.
“If the two of us happen to end up in the leadership contest together, I don’t see anything awkward about that. I think that’s wonderful.
“The more people you have in, bringing different perspectives to bear, different suggestions about where the country should go, different ideas for rebuilding the party, the better.””
The Liberal leadership contest doesn’t formally begin until November, and ending in a leadership convention in April.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 7:43 AM - 0 Comments
Why is it so hard for our elected officials to admit it when they…
Why is it so hard for our elected officials to admit it when they stumble? Postmedia posed the question, then called in the experts.
Frank Farley, psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia: “It’s hard for anybody to apologize. But for a politician, it’s a gamble. If it goes wrong, it may show weakness.”
Jill Scott, professor at Queen’s University: “If you apologize for something, then you become responsible for it. And if you’re responsible for it, then that could require further action.”
Says Farley: “He’s trying to be discreet and move forward but he knows the way it works — just as the email was made public, the apology will make it into the press.”
By Gabriela Perdomo - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 7:42 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday reporters and pundits, including our own Paul Wells and John Geddes, considered the…
Today all eyes have turned on Justin Trudeau, a potential leadership contender.
Postmedia News’ Michael Den Tandt writes:
Should the 40-year-old eldest son of Pierre Trudeau overcome his stated reluctance to be separated from his young family by the burdens of leadership, he automatically becomes the front-runner. No other Liberal has anything close to Trudeau’s public profile; no other has his combination of a solid base in Quebec, fluency in both languages, youth and family pedigree. Most obviously, no other Liberal — indeed no other Canadian politician — has Trudeau’s seemingly effortless ability to galvanize media attention and public debate.
Gary Mason has this to say in today’s Globe and Mail:
… Justin Trudeau would have an enormous job in front of him. Actually, the mind boggles at the challenge. Why would he take on such a thankless and seemingly impossible task? It would be tough enough in the East and Central Canada, but in the West – where the Trudeau name is mud – odds of him making any headway are pretty much zero.
Like Mason, Joan Bryden also casts a doubt on Trudeau’s ability to be the leader the Liberals need right now:
… it remains to be seen whether Trudeau has the depth or judgment to make a good leader. He has repeatedly gotten himself in hot water with impulsive comments. He had to apologize recently for an expletive in the House of Commons and had to reaffirm his faith in a united Canada after musing that he might favour Quebec separation if he thought Canadians genuinely wanted it. Whatever his deficits, Trudeau would be hard to beat.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:18 AM - 0 Comments
Auditor General Michael Ferguson is poised to release performance audits of MP and Senate…
Auditor General Michael Ferguson is poised to release performance audits of MP and Senate expenses.
Two years in the works, the goal of the audit as outlined by former AG Sheila Fraser was to determine ”whether the House has sound management processes and key administrative systems and practices.”
So, as the Canadian Press is reporting, no MPs or senators will be named or shamed in the audit of $533 million in annual spending: ”The audits didn’t even look at individual office management nor the merit of specific MP spending decisions.”
The CBC points out that the reports will focus less on inappropriate expenses and more on the rules around that spending:
“I’ve heard people talking about a $4 cup of coffee,” Fraser is quoted as saying at the start of the probe. “I’ve got, quite frankly, better things to do than look for $4 cups of coffee.”
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, June 8, 2012 at 8:44 AM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair’s controversial comments on a possible case of Dutch disease in Canada have…
Thomas Mulcair’s controversial comments on a possible case of Dutch disease in Canada have not hurt his party’s support across the country. At least that is what a Nanos poll released Friday indicates, says Nik Nanos, president of the polling firm.
According to the poll, the Conservatives and the NDP are in a dead heat, separated only by one tenth of a percentage point (0.1), which technically means the two parties are in a statistical tie for popular support. The biggest surprise in the results is that the 0.1 advantage belongs to Mulcair’s NDP, a lead the federal new democrats have taken for the first time in history.
From the Globe and Mail:
While the survey suggests that support for the New Democrats fell in the Prairie provinces during the time the comments about Dutch disease were in the news, support increased in British Columbia and Quebec and held steady elsewhere.
Quebec and British Columbia are two key provinces for the NDP, Mr. Nanos said. But the Prairies, he said, are not critical for the party to hold on to the job of Official Opposition and to be competitive nationally.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
This speech is a few months old—it was delivered in March—but it has only recently appeared online in video form (and I’ve been interested to find a recording of it since reading Joe Brean’s report in the Post). Michael Ignatieff begins speaking around the 3:40 mark.
See previously: ‘I didn’t get there’
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 3:14 PM - 0 Comments
Armando Iannucci—writer of The Thick Of It, In The Loop and Veep—talks to Slate about the lives of politicians.
Slate: In the world you create, politicians are OK when they’re being fed lines by PR men or spin doctors, but they’re pretty useless when they’re left to their own devices. Isn’t that a writer’s fantasy?
Iannucci: Are they useless? I think they show their real character when they’re left to their own devices. It’s frustrating that they can’t say what they really want to say or that they’re misinterpreted. In many ways, I sympathize with them, because we as a public, and we as a media, put extraordinary pressure on them to get it right all the time—not to make any mistakes and not to step out of line. Another part of the problem is that politicians are so busy they haven’t got time to read. They don’t read a newspaper the way that you and I would. They get presented with a pile of clippings that are all about them, so they get used to this notion that everyone is reading just about them. That’s where the level of paranoia comes in. Or they’re working with PR people whose job is to worry about what is said, so they therefore think that everything that is said is somehow something to worry about.
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, March 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM - 0 Comments
As the NDP gears up for this weekend’s convention in Toronto, set to finally…
As the NDP gears up for this weekend’s convention in Toronto, set to finally decide who will lead the party as well as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Ottawa, another race to replace Jack Layton is to be settled this week. Polls opened on Monday morning in the riding of Toronto-Danforth, the district Layton held since 2004. The NDP’s candidate, Craig Scott, a York University law professor, leads in most forecasts, followed by Liberal candidate Grant Gordon and Conservative Andrew Keyes.
Back to the leadership race now: Thomas Mulcair told the CBC that he will continue taking “the high road,” rejecting criticism for reportedly trying to move the NDP closer to the centre. He is the leading candidate in the NDP leadership race, with more endorsements than all of his opponents combined— all of 43 MPs support Mulcair.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
Jennifer Ditchburn connects the dots between Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, the health care accord and oil exports.
Armour says the Conservatives have put three main principles at the centre of their communications strategy: message discipline, acting on insight and opportunity.
The message control has been well documented. The insight comes from properly reading and analysing the landscape and the players, and the opportunity is the moment that presents itself to act.
Somewhat relatedly, Bill Curry reports the Conservatives are turning to public relations firms to manage government communications. And on both counts I’ll refer back to what I wrote earlier this month.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 2:41 PM - 12 Comments
These may be descriptions of actual experiences, but they are also threadbare cultural clichés. This is what Orwell denounced as the corruption of thought by language, “gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else.” Is it possible that when it comes to political engagement, most Canadians are in a position somewhat similar to Schrödinger’s cat: they are neither alienated nor engaged until they are asked by a social scientist, at which point they just fall back on the default public vocabulary of a broken machinery of government manipulated by knavish politicians … Everyone loves justice, but everyone hates lawyers. Or how about lamb chops versus abattoirs? Politics is the process of democracy, law is the process of justice, and the abattoir is the process of getting to lamb chops. It isn’t clear that any big conclusions can or should be drawn from this, apart from a variation on Bismarck’s famous line: democracy is like sausages. It’s better not to see it being made.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 8:25 AM - 13 Comments
For its latest report on the state of our democracy, Samara consulted the public.
Overall, our research shows that declining political engagement is, at least in part, due to concrete experiences with politics. Indeed, participants’ answers belie the notion that the Canadian public is not knowledgeable or sophisticated enough to understand how their political system works. Rather, the people we spoke to are keenly aware of the forces that affect politics.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 9:56 AM - 11 Comments
Liberal MP’s constituents told of purported pending resignation
The Tories admitted they told constituents in Liberal MP Irwin Cotler’s Montreal riding that Cotler was about to resign and a by-election would be held, in a number of phone calls spreading false information in the last couple of weeks, the National Post reports. Conservative MPs, however, defended the calls as a legitimate means to identify voters. Constituents in Cotler’s Mount Royal, in fact, received calls from a marketing research company urging them to support the Conservatives in a possible upcoming by-election. Queen’s University professor Ned Franks told the Post the Conservatives’ tactic amounted to “dirty blows.” Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan, however, noted that rumors about Cotler’s pending have been circulating for over a decade, and that, therefore, telling constituents there were rumours of a byelection was hardly a stretch.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 9 Comments
Scott Stinson wonders whether we care about our legislatures (or whether our legislatures give us anything to care about).
The speaker was explaining that she didn’t think much of the work conducted in the provincial legislative assembly. “Most of my issues are around the quality of debate and the research and the fact that you can pretty well get up in the house of assembly and say whatever it is you like,” she said. “You don’t have to be concerned with truth.”
… It’s not an uncommon sentiment among members of the public, and if the statement was from one of those ubiquitous morning-radio bits where they stick a microphone in front of someone who is filling their gas tank to measure “the public’s” opinion, it would have been unremarkable. But this was the Premier speaking. Kathy Dunderdale, the newly elected Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 11 Comments
David Berlin proposes a new kind of parliamentary government.
Provincial and federal systems are more complex. But consider a no-party system in which the public votes directly for MPs and provincial members, and then the members themselves elect the cabinet ministers, who would then elect the prime minister or premier in the same way. Each would-be minister would specify proposals and what portion of a projected four-year budget (estimated by the national bank) it would take to accomplish them. Each MP’s or provincial member’s ballot would have to name a set of candidates whose estimates added up to no more than 100 per cent of that budget.
Berlin’s primary complaint is the party system itself. But the problem isn’t political parties, so much as its the power those parties have to control individual MPs. And while the proposal here might make things somehow better—though I suspect parties would still take shape—it’s also difficult to imagine how so drastic a change would ever come to pass.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 6:31 PM - 2 Comments
The United Nations found evidence of torture in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister demurred in regards to the Ontario election. Lisa Raitt mused vaguely of amending the Labour Code and blocked a strike at Air Canada. Tony Clement promised open government. Newfoundland and the Yukon stuck with their incumbents. Bruce Carson left behind some bills. And Canadian conservatives fell just short of a symbolic majority. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 1 Comment
Jane Hilderman argues that people won’t vote if they don’t think the system is truly accountable.
As we are learning from our focus groups, more important to Canadians, who are less likely to participate, is a government that listens when a problem arises, works to fix it, and keeps promises it made. On this they were resoundingly clear: improve the legitimacy of our existing institutions (and by extension politicians, too) through better responsiveness and accountability. The rest will take care of itself.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 12:04 PM - 47 Comments
You’ve probably heard the rote statistic about how only 37 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 cast a ballot in the 2008 federal election, compared with 68 per cent of those over 65. But here’s something you may not have heard: during that same election, the majority of youth were not contacted in any way by a candidate or political party. What about the 65-plus crowd? Well, 69 per cent of them were contacted directly, by my calculations, using the Canadian Opinion Research Archive. When young Canadians aren’t being consistently asked to participate, it’s hardly surprising that they don’t turn out for elections.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 11:38 AM - 55 Comments
The per-vote annual funding for federal political parties is the most democratic part of the federal political finance system because the funding is handed out based on the actual support from voters each party receives in the election.
Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Québec all have per-vote funding of political parties for this reason.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 10:52 AM - 20 Comments
Paul Dewar discusses the impact of his faith on his politics.
Dewar’s background is as a teacher, but his call to politics was heavily influenced by the religious beliefs passed on to him by his activist parents, Ken and Marion Dewar, and by the Ottawa church the family attended for decades, St. Basil’s Roman Catholic.
“Faith and politics are congruent and we have no option but to be political if we are going to live the gospel,” Dewar is quoted as saying in the forthcoming book Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life by Ottawa author and former NDP MP Dennis Gruending. “We have to constantly question what the Christian message is and we can never stop trying to change the way things are in society.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 12:52 AM - 0 Comments
More of Tony Clement’s private emails became public. Peter MacKay stated the case for staying in Libya. Jack Harris made the case for changing course. The House agreed with the Defence Minister. John Baird addressed the UN. Dick Cheney’s feelings were hurt. The Harper government ended debate on its crime bill and opened investigations into the CBC and the NDP. And the Prime Minister made a great show of meeting with the Finance Minister and the Governor of the Bank of Canada. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 14 Comments
Andrew Potter defends the existence of political parties.
Nenshi also pointedly refused to affiliate himself with any particular party. He re-emphasized that line while giving a speech in Toronto last week, saying in the Q&A after the talk that the absence of parties is the one thing he likes best about city politics. Parties, he said, are of interest to academics, to the media, and to politicians themselves, but to the average citizen they are useless.
Like almost all popularly held views, the only problem with this is that it’s wrong, and based on a serious misunderstanding of what parties are for. Most people think that parties are supposed to advance a specific ideology, like left-wing egalitarianism or social conservatism. Some parties do this, but that is mostly just a side-effect of their primary role, which is to translate popular support into political power. They do this by delivering a cohesive and disciplined block of support sufficient to sustain a government for an extended period of time.
See previously: In defence of partisanship