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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Friday, June 13, 2014

An election post-mortem

Some random thoughts about last night's catastrophe.
  1. So-called social-conservative issues like gay marriage, abortion and the "war on religion" were not, to my knowledge, mentioned once in the campaign. This is a good thing, and the PCs need to continue doing this. If the party hopes to break out of its rural fortress and appeal to urban voters, let sleeping dogs lie.
  2. Speaking of urban voters, I had a look at the electoral map this morning, and it is telling. Liberal support is almost exclusively urban, concentrated in the Toronto/Hamilton corridor, metro Ottawa, and university towns like Kitchener-Waterloo and London (which were shared with the NDP). The NDP's support is mostly in Northern Ontario, Windsor, eastern Niagara (all economically depressed), and a few urban ridings. The rest of the rural, sparsely-populated province is Tory blue. The PC party needs to wake up to this fact: if it can't come up with a coherent fiscally-responsible platform that appeals to urban voters and isn't delivered by someone who reminds them of Jethro Clampett, then it is doomed for the forseeable future. 
  3. I'm sure Tim Hudak is a nice guy, but he's a terrible campaigner and I'm glad he resigned last night. Every time I saw him on TV I cringed, what with his rictus grin, his constant hand-waving and his wooden "Bueller ... Bueller ... anyone?" delivery. Winston Churchill he ain't. I wish him well, but he's been a big disappointment as leader. In addition, the wonks who run the party should also fall on their swords. There needs to be a purge of the party organization and a complete re-tooling. As Talleyrand said of the last Bourbon monarchs of France - "they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing".
  4. Memo to the PC party:  GO NEGATIVE for God's sake!!! Hudak's decision to run a positive campaign and concentrate on his platform was a huge mistake. The past two elections have seen the PCs up against an ethically and morally bankrupt incumbent government that is running the province into the ground, propped up for the last two years by the NDP, and yet Hudak barely mentioned that glaring fact. Voters should have been confronted daily by the Liberal party's long record of malfeasance and outright chicanery. Somewhere at Harvard Dalton McGuinty is laughing into his soy decaf latté.
  5. Hudak's biggest mistakes were the promise to cut 100 000 jobs from the civil service and the "Million Jobs Plan". Attaching nice round numbers to the platform, seemingly pulled out of a hat, practically invited criticism. The job cuts figure allowed the opposition to trot out the supposed widows and orphans who would be hurt or outright killed by Scary Tim, and the Million Jobs platform brought out the opposition bean counters who picked apart the statistics and handed the Liberals their "Bad Math" slogan. Hudak lost control of the debate at that point and it became bogged down in trivial arguments among ivory tower academics. Hudak then doubled down, promising to resign in two years if his goals weren't met - this smacked of desperation. The platform should be made up of broad ideological principles and goals like personal liberty, fiscal responsibility, easing the regulatory load on business, and  lower taxes. The Liberal platform was devoid of both hard numbers AND ideological principles, and they were returned with a majority - go figure.
  6. There is a small silver lining; for the next four years Kathleen Wynne now owns the mess her party created. It's with a certain amount of schadenfreude that I'll watch her twist and squirm as she has to deal with the credit rating agencies and the public sector unions without having the NDP to kick around anymore. 
Ontario is in for a world of hurt, and if from the ruins the PCs can't craft a viable alternative in 2018, then we don't deserve to form the government. And now, I'm going to cry in my beer.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Well done Eric!

The part where you say Hudak should have gone negative is an excellent point but I understand the reason he didn't was that he might be perceived as an angry male attacking the poor defenseless women. (I know. Kathleen Wynne could probably arm wrestle him to the ground in a heartbeat but that would have been the spin.)

But he certainly could have legitimately criticized the scandalous Liberal record. He had really bad advice and I agree with you that the whole team should be fired.

As Doug Ford said today the party needs an enema. ;)

Martin said...

But what were the campaign planners thinking? They had 2 1/2 years to do nothing but plan, and not repeat the mistakes of the previous 2 elections.
But like Charly Brown and his football they do the same thing over again.People on this site offered advice on dozens of scandals to focus on; I would have harped on hydro rates, something Liberals are vulnerable on and everyone understands. Instead they offered to put 100,000 people out of work. Big mistake.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives need to put forward Conservtive positions. Abortion kills babies. Protecting innocent lives should not be dismissed to get votes. What is wrong with you? Do you seek votes at any cost to your principles?

Anonymous said...

Nah..Hudak should of done what the Liberals do...lie, promise the moon and stars or whatever voters want to hear, then after the election say...sorry we need to ax you all....just make sure you pay off the cops.

Lorne Russell said...

Good points. The election should have been about the Liberal record. Instead it was about Hudak's pink slips and million jobs. (Isn't that how he lost the previous election too?)

Liberals got to play offense, Hudak played defense when it should have been the other way around.

Your point 1 about social issues is spot on. Those battles have been lost. Get over it. Move on. Bring up abortion or same sex marriage or any of that stuff and you're immediately playing defense.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to believe as Dennis Miller the American comic and right-wing radio host does, that things have flipped. We have reached a tipping point and there is no turning back unless there is a real financial melt-down and social melt-down and even then.
The progressive termites have eaten away at our foundations of education, religion and journalism and we are paying the price.

Eric said...

Anonymous 6:44

What is wrong with me? Nothing. Pro-lifers don't get to decide who is sufficiently conservative to be involved in the party. I am pro-choice and gay and I still feel that there's a place for me in the Conservative party. I respect your position on these issues and respectfully disagree with them, but I certainly don't think I am less principled than you are.

Abortion and other social conservative issues like gay marriage are a political dead end in this country, and Conservatives need to accept that.

If you want to turn the OPCP into a socially conservative party, then you had better be prepared to be a completely un-electable special interest group and consigned to the fringes of the political debate. There are more important issues on the Conservative agenda that need to be brought to the political arena by a party with a serious chance of forming a government, and adopting a socially conservative platform would be political suicide.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this party is that it spends more time trying to keep its supporters happy, than trying to attract new voters. There were many unions unhappy with the Liberals, but the PCs failed to see them as potential voters.

The question going ahead is do we want to win future elections?

Anonymous said...

Years ago, political parties in Ontario were compared to Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Same ingredients, just different names. Bill Davis and David Peterson were very similar even if they lead different parties. Now it seems like the Liberals are still like Coca-Cola while the OPC seem happy to be Mountain Dew.

The Liberals can be called Pepsi or Coca-Cola. They can be regular or diet. They can even be cherry flavour if that is what people want or the times call for.
Mountain Dew is less popular than Coca-Cola. You can try to make it more interesting with new flavours, but traditionalists might complain that they want to keep it the old way even if it is less popular and has declining sales. The end result is that you see more Coca-Cola products on shelves than Mountain Dew.

When it came to the Million Jobs pledge, I heard a different problem with Hudak's math. Hudak's talk about lower taxes creates jobs was challenged by the Federal Tories who said not too long ago that companies were sitting on the money that they kept with lower corporate taxes.

What the OPC desperately need now is an uneventful leadership campaign. They need to rally around one candidate and show no signs of division. Part of the Liberals success could be attributed to how they rallied around Wynne during the elections. We were trying to rally around Hudak while also knowing that it was his last chance and that leadership challengers were getting ready to pounce.

Anonymous said...

"They need to rally around one candidate and show no signs of division."

The proles will learn to respect their betters! Independent thought is treason!

Anonymous said...

I am surprised they didn't go negative. There was so much ammo to work with. As I've said before people claim to hate attack ads but they work thus why politicians use them. This is almost deja vu of the last BC election where the BC Liberals (who are actually centre-right, not centre-left like ours) were vulnerable to defeat yet the NDP ran a positive campaign and the Liberals and negative and guess what happened. The Liberals won with another majority. In the June 3rd debate when Hudak asked Wynne how should would balance the budget and she couldn't say, why didn't he ran an ad on that. That would have been the perfect one to attack her. Maybe not enough to pull off a win considering how badly we did, but certainly enough to prevent a Liberal majority.

Also the whole team behind Hudak needs to be fired. It wasn't just him, his handlers bungled this badly.

And finally any time you adopt a policy test it with a focus group, don't just ask your members since you cannot win by appealing to only your base. No party has a large enough base to win on its own, rather you need your base + Swing voters. We got the latter but lost amongst the former. Interesting to consider Harper got 44.4% last time in Ontario while Hudak got 31.3% so a 13.1% difference only yet seat wise Harper got 73 seats including many in the GTA while Hudak only 28. Otherwise don't underestimate the impact of the swing vote as small as they may be.

Anonymous said...

I am a Liberal but believe it or not I voted PC. My parents are Liberals who have grown to respect Harper but despise Hudak. Why? Well my mother told me how could anyone vote for someone who is going to cut 100,000 jobs. So I asked her, do you think cutting spending to lower and eliminate the deficit is a big priority? Yes, she replied. Would you support a freeze on hiring until we get back to 2009 staffing levels. Yes, she replied. Then I told her that was what Hudak was going to do. There's an important lesson for the PCs to learn here. The 100,000 civil service cuts was packaged in a way to appeal to your base. You should be taking policies that you base likes and design them to appeal to swing voters. That will mean totally ignoring some policies that your base would like. Harper has figured this out and convinced people like my parents to vote for him. The Hudak team, not just Hudak, are TERRIBLE at politics.

Eric said...

Anonymous 3:30

Good point about the focus group testing. I know a lot of card-carrying die-hard Tories who were appalled by the 100 000 job cuts announcement - many have relatives in the civil service. It was very poorly handled. Reductions could have been done more sensitively (attrition, hiring freezes, etc) without threatening people with losing their jobs. It reinforced the conservative stereotype of the heartless Scrooge. I can't imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea.

Eric said...

Anonymous 4:35

I totally agree. I've had the same experience talking with some of my relatives.

Anonymous said...

Eminently winnable election for Tories if they don't let Rhodes and Long run the campaign. Harris was an anomaly. By the end of Wynne's term, the Libs will have been in power for 22 of the past 33 years.

Robert Tripp said...

I know I'm late with this, but I too was appalled at the tactics (or the lack of) displayed by the Hudak campaign. All Tim had to do was keep his trap shut and there would've been no misunderstanding or panic about his PC platform. Only an apprehensive few, who consistently suspect a "hidden agenda" on the part of the Conservatives, would express opposition. If Mr. Hudak had used a non-invasion, steady-as-she-goes strategy similar to PM Harper's, all would be well today, and at the worst, a Liberal Minority. Now we have to maintain our stance of posteriors to the air, in anticipation of even more costly deceptions and mismanagement of Ontario.