Posts Tagged ‘campaigns’

The Candidate: KISS the web site.

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Part 5 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

Yes, you have to have a web site. Yes, it better look like the party web site. Yes, you have to Keep It Simple Stupid.

What you do not need is a web site that only a systems programmer can love. The more sophisticated, the more complex, the more clicks to take you where you can read what is promised and the more readers you will lose because you have wasted their time. You can hardly afford to lose the people you have brought to your web site. It cost you too much to get them there for them to be frustrated with the complexity of finding their way through the site.

As in communications of any kind, you have to always assume that the reader has never heard of you before. You always have to start from ground zero about you. And you should always assume the reader is no computer expert. You never ever assume the ‘everybody knows that.’

You can never say often enough your full name and the party you are running for. It has to be the same as it is on the ballot or you will cause confusion.

And if someone tells you this approach is user friendly run away from them. Anyone in the computer industry can attest to the fact that ‘User Friendly’ is a ghost that everyone talks about and nobody has ever seen.

Sure the candidate can manoeuvre through his or her web site, but can the candidate’s mother? Always ask someone who will not let their ego get in the way of honesty.

Do not expect your writers to be able to design your web sites. And, sorry-to-say, most web designers can neither spell nor construct a simple sentence.

In putting together your web site always start with what you want to say. Starting with the design is just design for the sake of design.

If you have come up with a logical and simple statement about why the voters in your riding will vote for you, use that information on every page. You cannot tell the voters often enough.

And if we have not mentioned this often enough, consistency pays. Your signs, literature, Facebook page, Twitter feed and web site all have to have the same look and feel. Never confuse the voters.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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The Candidate: That pre-writ lit.

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Part 2 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

There are many arguments about the literature required by candidates in the pre-writ period (the time between being chosen as the candidate and the election call being official). If the Prime Minister decides to wait for the chosen date of October 19, you can expect the writ to be issued, at the latest, shortly after Labour Day, allowing at least 36 days for the election period. There will be new rules in play for this writ period.

Since the rules are lax in the pre-writ period, some people spend a lot on communication. Most of this is a waste of money. The reality is that you only need two printed pieces in this period and the rest of your communication can be concentrated in social media.

The first piece is the candidate’s card. These are handed out and left everywhere by the candidate. They should be of just good enough quality that people will not automatically throw them in the garbage—you want them to read it first. They can be as simple as a two-sided business card and as elaborate as a slightly larger version that is folded.

The key information on the card is 1) the candidate’s name, 2) a contact number that will be operational for the entire campaign, 3) the political party and 4) the name of the electoral district. You might also show a small map of the riding if it has been changed.

Stay away from trying to include any policies or trite slogans. You might start thinking now of seven words or less that explain why people are voting for your candidate instead of any other. Do not hold up producing the card waiting for the answer.

The second piece is a candidate introduction. This is the one time that the literature really is about the candidate. It should never be an eight-and-a-half by 11 two-fold piece. It has to be something of substance. Think light card stock or heavy glossy paper. And be sure to write the copy first. Designers are not always good copywriters. Make sure there is room for all the copy. One of the best designs is like the Time Magazine cover with two inside pages with a grouping of stories about the candidate’s career and community involvement. The back page is all the contact, volunteer, donations, lawn sign, etc. stuff and do not forget to cover all the social media and other Internet sites.

This is also the time to build and promote the candidate in social media. Use it creatively, use it well and keep it lively. Your people have to remember that half your followers will probably be too young to vote but they make great volunteers and have older siblings, parents and friends. The job is to get them interested, including their friends in the novelty of something different, and volunteering—do not be an old fogey!


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Alberta stumbles as the Hair’s empire crumbles.

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

There are at least a couple ridings in Alberta that could attract some smart Liberals for the federal election. Voters in that province are not stupid you know. They might also like to send a message to the Prime Minister after what he has helped to do to the province’s economy. The message is simply: Bye-bye Hair.

Canadians are inclined to forget much of what the Hair has done to this country over the past nine years. The effect of that bad stewardship has had an even worse effect on the province that gave him its 100 per cent support. That the Hair’s hopes were hollow is an understanding that came later to the West than the East.

But the voters can hardly send a message via Alberta’s provincial Conservatives in the Alberta election that could be held soon. The basic problem with that is that there is not much provincial opposition. The Wildrose Party has hardly recovered from the loss of a leader and most members who decided that being part of the government was more fun than being the opposition.

And they are still puzzling over the Prentice government promising in last week’s budget that the province can save $160 million on health care just through cutting excess spending and other efficiencies. That is a typical claim of Conservative politicians. If they can do that then some people should be fired for the misspending that was taking place before this budget. You would have to work far harder than those people usually work to misspend $160 million.

The only mistake by Prentice and his finance minister was in not including business in sharing some of the tax increases. This was more an ideological stance than any concern about the level of corporate taxes in Alberta. Alberta already has the lowest provincial corporate taxes in Canada. And, of course, there was no hint in the $5 billion deficit budget of there being a provincial sales tax.

But there are still many Albertans whose sense of entitlement has been shaken. When you take candy from children, they try to retaliate. Premier Jim Prentice might be right to get to the provincial election fast. It is like the theory of pulling off the band-aid quickly. If he can get it over with quickly, under the radar, he can leave the Hair to take the blame.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Who leads Canada’s progressives?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Canadian media are a lazy bunch. They follow the paths of least resistance and false assumptions. Take this past week when some supposed progressives were gathered at the Broadbent Institute in Ottawa for its Progress Summit. The one question that was never answered was ‘Who were the Liberal Progressives at the gathering?’

Ed Broadbent never invited this progressive Liberal. Nor would this Liberal attend. This is not sour grapes. We know that Ed Broadbent is not progressive nor are the sponsors of the meeting. Ed Broadbent is a staunch unionist with a closed mind. He believes in the collective over the individual. He lives in the past.

More than a third of Canada’s union members are believed to vote Liberal. And as more and more unions move into the 21st Century, that number will grow. It is not that the unions are failing to support their members but they are recognizing their membership as individuals. Their strength as a union is in the individual initiatives of the members. The era of the ‘I’m alright Jack’ union is dead and gone.

Those Liberal apparatchiks who got into close combat with the urban New Democrats 30 to 40 years ago remember when what seemed solid CCF/NDP ridings swung wildly between the Conservatives and the supposed socialists. There was no transition through the Liberals who thought they were the middle ground. There was no middle ground. These voters were Conservative or NDP supporters and the Liberals were the traditional enemy. They started shifting en mass to the most likely non-Liberal solution.

Today’s New Democrats continue to change, more despite the Ed Broadbents than because of them. They are a melange of younger academics, environmentalists, the less progressive unions and a mixed battery of community activists. You would be hard pressed to define them as socialists and you would be in error to consider them progressives. The progressives were chased out of the party along with the radical Waffle some 30 years ago. Leaders such as Jack Layton were municipal activists and political populists.

And that leaves a guy like New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair in a bind. All he knows is what he learned as a Quebec style Liberal and he has some time under his belt as a frustrated but persistent opposition leader. All he has going for him is a very shaky base in Quebec from the now gone Orange Wave and an embattled Ontario wing. As a citizen of France as well as a Canadian citizen, his loyalty to Canada is going to be called into question during the campaign. That might be his mob out there but to lead, you really need to know where the mob wants to go.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Mr. Mulcair, you better not pout.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

It looks like New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair got an early lump of coal from Santa last night. The orange surge in Quebec came up short and Tommy’s star candidate in Toronto did not make it. And it was the Liberals who benefitted from the anger with Prime Minister Harper in Manitoba.

But Tommy, why were you being such a rotten kid in Toronto? Why the nasty campaign against Freeland? Why not leave that kind of stuff to Harper and his Conservatives? They are much better at being mean and cruel. When they say something nasty about you, you know they mean every bit of it.

You had the best candidate in the Toronto-Centre contest. Linda McQuaig’s credentials on the side of the people are solid. Not to put down Chrystia Freeland but we know Linda far better. And we know her sincerity. Sure, Chrystia is probably just as smart but she has a ways to go in proving her left-of-centre political credentials.

If anything, Tommy, you held Linda back. You fettered a free spirit. You screwed up by approving the Enbridge pipeline through Toronto. It is probably a more dangerous threat to Torontonians than a load of bombs from a B17. It is an ecological disaster just waiting to happen. Linda could have ran with that and guaranteed her win in Toronto-Centre.

But you held her back. You never understood that all your knitty-picky prosecutorial stuff in the House of Commons over the Senate scandal was not reaching the voters. What you thought of as tenacious came through as terribly boring. What you really needed to do in Toronto-Centre was to attack Trudeau’s stance on issues. It was an opportunity for you to be heard. It actually just shows that your campaign people did not understand the demographics of the riding.

Meanwhile back in Bourassa electoral district in Montreal, you proved that you are no Jack Layton. Mind you, it is tough to emulate a myth. As do most myths, the late Leader of the New Democrats does not come out well under close scrutiny. The Orange Wave in Quebec was a one-time event in Quebec because the Bloc was crashing. All Jack Layton really did was hand Stephen Harper and his Conservatives an undeserved majority—and Canada will rue that for many years.

What comes out of the by-elections in Bourassa, Toronto-Centre, Brandon-Souris and Provencher is hope. Justin Trudeau has some growing to do but he has shown us that he can lead. In the upcoming federal policy meeting in Montreal, he has to come up with a strong left-of-centre people’s platform. Canada can ill-afford another right-of-centre government. He has to recognize that the middle class have to have a social agenda.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Justin’s on the job: Let’s get to work.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

That was no barnburner speech last Sunday. That was the real Justin Trudeau speaking. He was gracious. He was humble. And he appreciated the phenomenal level of support he received from across Canada. His point was well taken: now the real work begins.

Later this year, the new electoral districts will be proclaimed and the party will proceed to restructure itself to contest 338 seats across Canada in the next election. The most extensive change will be in Ontario with 16 new electoral districts. Those 16 new ridings will be among the most hotly contested in the election expected in October of 2015. They will also be among the most hotly contested by Liberals seeking the nominations to be the candidate.

Most of those electoral districts are going to need lots of help. We need a much stronger provincial and regional party organization to help get that job done. The federal party organization in Toronto has to start asserting itself and provide the support to assist every riding to do its job. In Ontario, we also need strong regional executives to share that workload and make sure no opportunities are lost. And it means an entirely different mindset than before as the riding organizations take responsibility for candidates, policy development, fund raising, supporter identification and local public education efforts.

It has been more than 20 years since local ridings have had the responsibilities they are now undertaking. Most executive members have no concept of how to get the work done. They not only need to know how it was done 30 years ago but they also need to understand new technologies and new opportunities that can make the job easier.

But we have to start with the basics. If you have no idea of how the ground game works in politics, every member of your riding executive and every key member of the electoral district has to go to school. You need to be out on the streets of your electoral district tomorrow, practicing effective door-knocking techniques, identifying and recruiting supporters, opening up avenues for fund-raising. Ready or not, we have to get to work.

Justin’s job today is in Ottawa. Your job is here in your riding. And after you have done canvassing for the day, you can start to think about the policy issues Justin and Liberal candidates need to articulate for us in the run up to that 2015 election. Where should the Liberal Party lead Canadians in the 21st Century? We know how bad the Harper government is but what can we do better? Platitudes are what you use when you have had no time to think. We have two years before we need to publish a policy book. With all that time to plan it, it should be a fantastic Liberal policy book.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Ontario sinks to new lows in debate.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

If you were surfing, trying to find a rerun from the Charlie Sheen Two and a Half Men series around seven last night, you might have come across a new version of the show.  This one features a lady named Andrea Horwath in the Charlie Sheen role.  A prissy chap named Dalton was playing the amiable side-kick role of Allan Harper while an aging adolescent Tiny Tim struggled with the fat, dumb kid persona.  As a political debate, it had little to recommend it.

Ontario deserves better.  Mind you, NDP leader Andrea Horwath looked spiffy—a great hair do, good make-up job, nice dress, discreet jewellery—all spoiled by one of those trade-mark manish suit jackets.

For sartorial yuck, you could hardly beat Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s tie.  It must have been his daughter’s choice.  We now know the kid’s problem is not her parentage.  She is color blind.

It was Premier Dalton McGuinty’s role to look like suitable premier material.  And he did until those other two started to beat the crap out of him.

Horwath surprised everybody with her performance.  That nice lady can also be mean and bitchy.  Her remarks about pumping beer in North Bay sure did not do much for her trying to look like a premier.

It was everyone jumps on Dalton night.  Horwath was snide about his no-show at some Northern debate and Hudak was calling him a liar.

Dalton got in a good one on Tiny Tim about calling new Canadians foreigners but Tim denied it despite anyone who watches television news having heard him.

The three of them proved to be really bad communicators.  The people who prepped them for the show should all be shot.  Shotgun delivery of statistics is meaningless.  They did better with anecdotal stuff but what Andrea’s 18-year old son was doing on a skateboard is a good question.

Dalton actually smiled when he gave an aside to Andrea about her brother or someone getting a job at Honda.  Other than that one human moment, he is still in need of a personality transplant.

Tiny Tim came across as a bobble-head doll with a tape recorder up its rear.  He just bobbled along in his own weird right-wing world, spouting inanities.

By the time the show was over, we decided that it was a form of self-abuse that we did not need.  Anyway, we voted last week.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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The Toronto Star knows.

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Joining a small public relations firm 40 years ago was a turning point for your writer.  Imagine the shock walking around that office one day in quest of a dictionary to check the origins of a word.  There was none.  The managing director defended himself from his office, calling out to us, “In this business, we know.”  Mind you, nobody complained when a new copy of Oxford Concise appeared after lunch that day and was prominent on our secretary’s desk, to be borrowed as needed.

That same smug attitude of ‘knowing’ is evidenced often in Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper, The Toronto Star.  And as parent company, Torstar Corporation, also owns much of the really sad excuses for local newspapers around Ontario, this arrogance is doubly insulting.  Yet, with nothing better to read, The Toronto Star is consumed in Babel by many as routine with the morning coffee.

When it comes to elections, The Toronto Star likes to show its muscle.  Imagine the surprise of the editors when earlier this year they promoted the NDP and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won the election.  That way, The Star took credit for both the rise of the NDP and the success of Harper’s Tories.  The Star has much to answer for.

In the current provincial election, The Star has constantly tried to promote Andrea Horwath of the NDP.  Not very successfully.  That lady is not ready to sing.

The Star editors needed a new strategy.  They found it in an improbable poll that is only noted for its gross numbers.  This poll is based on some 40,000 times that people answered an automated telephone call.  A recording asked whoever answered—ages three to 100—to select a number representing the party for which they intend to vote.  While the large number of completed calls is meaningless on a province-wide basis, it is considered sufficient for each individual electoral district.  This appears to be the best information the editors have been able to get!

To say that the poll is suspect is an understatement.  Politically knowledgeable people quickly pick out some obvious errors but there are other figures that leave you scratching your head.  The prospect of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party candidates winning in 94 electoral districts (47 each) is so mathematically unlikely as to be amusing.

And while she does not get our vote, we should be embarrassed if Andrea Horwath’s NDP candidates only win 13 seats.  She and her cohorts worked hard.  Her campaign never gained much momentum but she still has the television debate to strut her stuff.

And as for Tiny Tim Hudak and his Conservatives: somebody is smoking something while tallying those figures.  Hudak does not compute.  His campaign is a tissue of half truths and conjectures.  He might have a good candidate here and there who deserves to go to Queen’s Park but not in any numbers to worry McGuinty.

Whether you like Dalton McGuinty or not he deserves to win.  As Premier, he does know what he is doing.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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The Whig wins Babel.

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

That settled it in Babel.  We had our traditional all-candidates meeting at City Hall and the Whig candidate walked away with it.  There was no contest.  We can go and vote today and we will.  There is no need for more campaigning in Babel.  Sure, we will watch the party leaders’ debate on television next week but that is to see which leader wins.

Just watching the gradual gathering of the contestants here in Babel told the story.  The Freedom Party candidate was first in his place.  He is young and knew no better.  He admitted when his party had no policy on an issue—which was often.  He is a political science student and by this time next year he will probably be something else having come to understand the conundrums his funny right-wing party presents.

The Green guy sat himself down early and bored everyone over the next two hours.  It was a test of our commitment to democracy that we suffered through the often inane comments of the fringe candidates.

The funniest of the fringe was the Libertarian who seems to have absolutely no concept of what Libertarianism means.  There was the occasional laugh and a couple times, two people actually started to applaud him.

The NDP candidate surprised us.  The lady was not on her top form.  She rambled a bit in her answers. She was not always clear in what she was saying but that seemed to suit some of the quite unclear questions and the vagueness of some of the NDP platform.

The Conservative candidate was brought into the council chambers by three ladies of his cheering claque.  Having lost his seat as a councillor in last fall’s municipal election, he did not seem as familiar with the locale.  His opening went well but his subsequent claim that his party leader, Tim Hudak, did not say he would not honour the uploading of provincial costs from municipalities beyond the billion dollars already uploaded by the Liberal government was met by some derision.  It also got him into a shouting match with the Whig candidate.  While the dozen or so members of his cheering section tried to cover up his gaffe, he came out of the argument looking foolish because of his attempt at what many in the hall knew was a blatant lie.

The Whig arrived in style, briefing book under his arm, reading glasses perched on top of his closely cropped hair.  He did a victory lap around the hall, glad handing as he went.  His bonhomie was a bit forced but he did show warmth in welcoming two youngsters who were obviously his grandsons.  He made a point of showing good humour by extended familiarities in saying hello to each of the other candidates who were already seated, ready to proceed.  The Whig made good use of his professionally prepared briefing book throughout his presentations but when he got away from it, he used far more “I’s” than “we’s.”  He makes much of his service background in the military police but the campaign medals he brags of are what are known as “I was there” ribbons.  It is fair game to mention them; he just needs to be more humble about them.

He needs to spend some time on the back benches at Queen’s Park to find out what politics is really about.  He has too easy a win here in Babel.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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An Ontario election update.

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The October 6 provincial election might be recorded as the most boring and predictable election in Ontario history.  To-date, there is really nothing interesting to write about.  Premier Dalton McGuinty is doing much better than expected.  Challenger Tim Hudak, the Conservative leader, is stumbling and fumbling and looking less like any kind of leader every day.  The NDP’s secret weapon, Andrea Horwath, is remaining a secret.

There was a clip on the TV news the other day of Premier Dalton McGuinty looking human.  Somebody brought a dog onto where he was doing the daily stand-up scene and he made a comment about dogs and politicians.  Believe it or not, he laughed. He made a comment that came across as honest and relaxed.  It was the first time voters have seen him not looking like he has a broom up his rear.  The Liberals should take the campaign away from the broom-up-their-rear people who have been running McGuinty’s campaign and just run the clip with the dog as a commercial for the rest of the campaign.  That would be an easy win.

At the same time ‘Tiny Tim’ Hudak is taking Ontario’s Tories down a slippery slope.  His campaign has lost focus.  For a guy who stayed so on-script for the previous seven months, it is hard to explain what has happened to him.  His first critical error was to bite on the Liberal’s tax credit for helping new Canadians gain some work experience.  Calling new Canadians ‘foreigners’ is a foolish thing to do when you are trying to win the new Canadian vote.  And then he became mired in technology that he did not understand.  He has no comprehension of the problems related to Global Positioning Systems and computer monitoring but he is touting a provincial monitoring system for sex offenders that would make the problems and costs of eHealth look like small change.

We hear the NDP are rushing out a 30-second commercial that tries to humanize a very human lady.  That will further confuse the message.  As things stand, the NDP brain trust has left a trail of confused voters across the province and some of them had wanted to vote NDP.

What both the Conservatives and NDP have forgotten is that it is not the people who normally vote for your party who you need to win.  You have to win among the truly undecided.  It would help if you even win some of your opponents’ supporters. They need a reason to vote for you.  And attack ads are dangerous when there are more than two parties.

It should always be remembered that in May 2008, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had spend millions trashing Liberal Michael Ignatieff.  In the election, the Conservatives increased their vote by two per cent of Canadian voters.  The NDP spent that campaign on a positive note promoting their leader Jack Layton.  The NDP improved their vote by better than 12 per cent.

But politicians are the last to change.


Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

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