The 3 Stooges of Election Strategy #elxn42

(Disclaimer: I've never been a member of a political party or given a donation of money to any party in my life. I'm guilty of only being Canadian, voting in elections, and changing my vote regularly. Please save your name calling for the playground. The only thing I am is a political junkie.)

I don’t  care who you vote for, as long as you vote. It’s the easiest thing you will do  on Monday…and even the whole week.

Stooge 1: Steve Harper

Jim Prentice, move over. There’s a new person to take the top spot for the out-of-touch politician award. Good news, it’s you’re friend Steve Harper, and as a bonus, you didn’t hold the title for long!

Once revered for his crack strategic election strategy skills, Steve was left only with his infinitely worse performance in 2015, capped in the final days with Canada’s crackhead, Rob Ford.

This election, has been brutally ugly. Instead of focusing on issues such as the economy, environment, missing & murdered  women, clean water on Reserves, or the Senate – all top ‘o mind issues for Canadians recent months – it was about hair, race/misogyny, and pot. At least that’s how Steve saw it.

harper squeeze1
The “little deficit” non-verbal message sent social media into a feeding frenzy

The implosion has begun, meaning a change in government is obvious. Really, the final stage of political implosion has been incredible in the last days. Evil Australian strategist quits day one.  Marijuana the end of the world next  day, Crackhead Rob Ford paraded out the next.  Your former lawyer and lifetime Conservative throws you under the bus on the final day.

It all comes down to a simple reality – you were out of touch with your target audience, Steve.

Remember those immigrants you so deftly swooned in past elections? By attacking a piece of cloth on their head you took away their right to adapt to our culture at their pace while keeping their right to religious freedom. We’ve accepted religious & cultural clothing in our country since we became a country. Just as some obvious examples for you: toques (Canadian culture), balaclavas (criminal culture), and Hutterite women (religious clothing), Steve. Steve. Steve? What were you thinking?

Let’s talk about hair…said nobody in an election, ever! Barbers talk about candidates, candidates don’t talk about barbers, Steve.

Weed is not infinitely worse than tobacco. That statement is, and crack cocaine. Crack is infinitely worse if Rob Ford gets some. Rob Ford liked crack a lot this past year, did you watch any television or YouTube last year? He’s a bad weed, Steve.

You even took Alberta for granted, blaming Albertans   who just gave a resounding majority government to a party they chose by voting in an election just this year!  I’d love to hear what Jim has to say about the effectiveness of that tactic! Unusual  move, Steve.

What you oddly failed at, was strategy and tactics. You failed horribly at both, failing to appeal to nearly 70% of Canadian voters! You had lots of money and time to work with, and you failed at both. You simply could have been the agent of change, but instead you were the same ol’ Steve. I expected you to challenge for the win. This is shocking, Steve.

As a Beatles fan, Harper should have known money can’t buy me(you) love.

First lesson in media strategy: Don’t call them out publicly if you want them to write nice stories about you. A student in the first month of school for Public Relations could tell you that.  Buying the front cover on the last Friday before the election isn’t earned media, it’s paid media. People see through that. Dumb, dumb, dumb, Steve.

A history of elections in Canada shows us you really lacked a chance at winning. Canadians have expiry dates on governments and especially Prime Ministers. Only a few have made it past the decade drop-dead deadline. You now are begging for Conservatives to vote in the final hours, because they are jumping off the ship fast. Wikipedia knew. You should’ve known, Steve.

You can’t lie when facts are readily available. You just can’t lie. Didn’t work for Jim, didn’t work for you, Steve.

Lastly, when has an early election call worked out in Canada for the incumbent? The oddest part, you have won elections by opponents doing the same thing! Move over, Jim. Have a seat, Steve. You won!

Stooge 2: Tommy Mulcair

Your team planned only for one thing. A 37 -day campaign. Big oops, Tommy.

The whole English to French translation thing…we call them official languages in Canada. Well, you need to say the same thing in Quebec as the rest of Canada, as French is spoken in every province and territory, Tommy.

Mulcair seemed to struggle for words all campaign. Where were the zingers we saw in the Commons?

Seriously, Steve and you both pick on Justin’s hair, Steve’s hair is based on a Lego man, and yet you’re the hairiest guy and get no attention? Your facial hair covers more than a Niqab does! Should’ve shaved, Tommy.

If you want to build a bigger house, you need to shore up the existing foundation while building on. You forgot Quebec! Pourquoi avez-vous oublié, Tommy?

Speaking of that, where was your base this election? Your party is generally the hardest-working, most organized of them all. I’ve always been impressed with what this party has  done with what you have. We barely saw you in Alberta, a new NDP province. Why did you forget this new base too, Tommy?

Hire a communications team next time…if you did, don’t hire the same one again.  Your words sucked, and didn’t stick. There was no theme, no story, no consistent zingers. Words can take your heart away, Tommy.

Stooge 3: Justin Trudeau

What just happened? You were in first, slipped to third, and then flew to first. How did you do that, Justin?

Monthly Federal Polls
Reversal of fortunes – the polls were interesting to watch this election.

Here’s   some of it. You had time as a third-place party to travel and listen. You made it clear you did just that. Face time isn’t just an app,  people have an appetite for that. You executed  research perfectly, Justin.

You were prepared for any scenario. Short campaign, long campaign, loads of issues, no issues, good issues, stupid issues. Your team did an excellent job analyzing your research and compiling multiple scenarios for a campaign. They even dealt with a hairy issue with humour and strong communication. Kudos to them, Justin.

Your communication was timely, engaging, and authentic. You didn’t cross over a line, you didn’t miss a line to walk up to. Nobody ever came close to you, Justin. (Sorry to others if that hurts your feelings, but you know it’s true.)

This video showed how well prepared you were, to tackle even the toughest of topics. Most of us could not have done this without getting more emotional. Well done, Justin.


The ultimate measure is about to come, and you nailed it in one interview.  “I’d love for you to vote Liberal, but I don’t even care as long as you vote.”  That was a humbling approach we didn’t see consistently from anyone but you, Justin.

You respected the media, took as many questions as they wanted to ask, and even cut out hecklers. The media didn’t side with you because they are left-wing and had a conspiracy. You allowed media to do their job, even if you didn’t like the topic in the final days. Democracy includes freedom of the press, and you demonstrated you were a real change in that area, Justin.

Your  next election won’t be as easy,  Justin.

Honourable Stooge: Elizabeth May

We only saw glimpses of you, and many were impressed. You spoke well,  and many people were impressed, Elizabeth.

Considering you had no resources and no huge team, pat yourself on the back for your debate  skills  (or when you weren’t allowed, your tweets). You should be proud, you were a breath of fresh air in an old boys club. Thank you, Elizabeth.


This election is a tough one to predict. I’ve said for years the Liberals were poised to win. Then, they appeared to lose support, which whipped back and higher in a big way during the campaign. All poll positions changed throughout the past year, with all parties holding a lead and losing it, and all leaders holding a lead and losing it, according to various polls.

Provincial elections, which often have only minor impact on federal elections, went in odd directions. BC Liberals won with NDP in second, a provincial  Conservative movement doesn’t even exist. PCAA won then lost to NDP in Alberta, falling to third after four decades in majority rule.  Liberals won in Ontario, something many didn’t expect.  The Liberals took back Quebec strongly. PEI stayed Liberal and NS went  Liberal from NDP which followed PC.  Others will go to the polls in the next year.

As I noted above, very few governments in Canada survive past 10 years. Canadians have an expiry date for governments. It’s a very set trend that only two   Prime Ministers managed to crack, the odd William Lyon Mackenzie King (1935-48, among other terms) and Sir Wilfred Laurier (1896-1911) with the record. Sir John A., Pierre  T, and Jean C. also made it by, but only barely.

It appears today, Steve H. won’t make that list.

Strategy wins, and strategy with tactics that connect win votes. This  is a popularity contest, and the person with the largest amount of popular vote will be the winner in their respective riding, and the party with the most riding wins will be the government. As Canadians, we will accept the results and move on with our lives, hoping their governing aligns with our values. The question is, will  their strategy and tactics fool us or match our expectations?

The Winners:

trudeau rally edmonton 9 sep

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party  –  I feel with absolute certainty the Liberals will win the most seats by a margin of at least 10 seats.  My prediction could see them obtaining anywhere from a strong  minority to a very strong majority (and a resulting collapse of the Conservative and NDP vote).

Elizabeth May and the Green Party – When you  start an election with one seat and add any, that’s a win. The Greens have some base in PEI, NB and BC. I see them getting as many as a handful of seats across the country.

The Losers:

Harper struggled instantly with the Duffy scandal, the same types of scandals he promised to clean up
Harper struggled instantly with the Duffy scandal, the same types of scandals he promised to clean up

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party – Their election to lose, and it looks like they will. My prediction ranges anywhere from them falling to 10 seats off the leading Liberals, to falling just a bit below the NDP to be in third, and realizing a massive collapse in support in the process. They’ve run a terrible campaign, a war of words with a horrible strategy and tactic deployment. They also ran with a leader who had run his course, which is also normal. (P. Trudeau, B. Mulroney and J. Chretien had the same ending…although their “fall guys” were J. Turner, K. Campbell, and P. Martin, respectively.)

Thomas Mulcair and the NDP – Failed to build on their base in Quebec, their only provincial base of Alberta, and failed to connect with voters. Their strategy lacked distance and focused solely on the Conservatives, while taking the Liberals for granted. My prediction is they will go from anywhere from second to third place. A shame if third, as they have made an excellent opposition.

I feel worst for Thomas, and bad for all who lose. Politics is an ugly business that people constantly say is lacking good leadership. Like all leaders, they get the worst attacks on them during elections, and it is constantly relentless. Imagine getting up everyday to see social media posts and media stories about how awful a person you are? Thousands of posts telling you are horrible. In reality, it’s likely Thomas, Stephen , Elizabeth and Justin are really people that most of us would like. However, because some of us attach ourselves so strongly to a person or leader, or we hate another leader/person so much, we spew  disgusting statements about the opposing players constantly. We forget, they are not only a person just like us, they are a fellow Canadian who is willing to take a beating for the most thankless job.

Regardless of the numbers, by the end of 2015, it’s likely this will be the way politics will look in Canada:

  1. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Liberals
  2. Unknown leader, Leader of the Opposition, Conservatives
  3. Unknown leader, NDP

The winners and losers  can learn a few things:

  • Develop multiple strategies for any way a campaign could go.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Be authentic and timely.
  • Don’t slander media. If you do, do it to their face and behind closed doors.
  • Positive beats negative, especially if negative is what you have to start.
  • Test your talking points, practice them, and repeat them. Make them your own words.
  • Hair is important only if it looks good.

Congratulations to all leaders, to all people who put their names forward to be a Member of Parliament, and to all people who worked to get our votes and worked at elections postings.

Very few  apply for the job and even fewer get a chance to serve. I commend all of you for running and to those that win, good luck! I can’t give you enough of that for what you’ll be expected to deliver.

I did the math: It’s UGLY! An Alberta Post-Election Communication Analysis (PR politipost)

The NDP have gone from fourth to first, breaking 43 years of PCAA governments
The NDP have gone from fourth to first, breaking 43 years of PCAA governments

If it feels different, it is. For nearly 44 years the same party has held power in Alberta. Until now.

The NDP has won the rights to form a majority government in Alberta. The PCAA dynasty has come to an end.

Read that again. Let it sink in. This is a historic moment for Canada. Equality spreads its wings from coast-to-coast for the first time in nearly half a decade. Be proud that you have done, even though some of you absolutely hate this moment and are in complete disbelief.

When I moved to Alberta five years ago, there was a fear for voting anything but Conservative. I was told that by everyone around me. “Just vote PC.” “Don’t cross them, they’ll crush you.” “Is there any other party?” Those were the statements I heard. Every time I shook my head and looked at the flag to see if I was still in Canada or had moved to dictatorship North Korea?

I met many of the PCAA folks over the years. Many I would consider friends. I don’t blame them for doing what they did, they were exercising a simple human behaviour: retaining power. 

Voters rejected fear as a tactic on May 5. What Albertans really rejected – was a lack of sound strategy. 

It’s safe to say now that the PCAA was an old and tired group. They failed at following through the simplest of communication: Research, Analyze, Communicate/Execute, Evaluate.

Projection Front
Polls were nearly bang on. NDP majority, WR official opposition, and PC’s in third. The signs were everywhere.

The research was obvious for anyone – anyone who looked. Albertans were tired of paying the ultimate price every time the economy stumbled. They were tired of a constantly stumbling economy. They were tired that their government didn’t have their back, a government who couldn’t balance the books when times were good, and a government who made them pay more when times were bad (remember, employment insurance claims have risen 30% for two consecutive months in Alberta).

The analysis of data and comments on various social media would have easily shown voters were not happy, and they told you (PCAA) why they were unhappy. You failed to research, you failed to analyze.

Next, your communication sucked. You began with a pre-budget message to “look in the mirror.” Without considering many Albertans were selling their mirror to put food on the table. At that point, they even used that mirror to reflect the sun in your eyes in an effort to wake you up. You put sunglasses on and walked away.

The grimmest of handshakes
The grimmest of handshakes

You continued with a budget that punished Albertans who were already paying with wage reductions, layoffs, and various other cutbacks. At the same time, your party, known for having a hand in the pocket of corporate big-wigs (not unusual for a party in power for a decade or more), proved just that. You didn’t make corporations pay a Canadian discontinued penny, while the people suffering due to corporate mismanagement as well as your party’s mismanagement, had to foot a $1.5 billion tax/fee increase alone. You forgot those that line your party pockets only have one vote each (and 1% of the total vote). The rest (that’s 99%, since math is hard), were unhappy with your lack of research, analysis and communication – and they also controlled the vote.

Albertans wanted increased taxes, and you ignored their views. 44% of them told you. This is the same percentage that showed support consistently for the NDP in the days before the polls. That is no coincidence.

You failed at one large piece you took for granted. After decades of booms and busts in Alberta, you showed proof your party could not manage a government. People saw that, and gave up on you. That was after you gave up on them.

Here’s the hard truth. Albertans wanted a better government, and you obviously were not it. They chose Alberta’s future, and it doesn’t involve you. 


Next time, start with developing a communications strategy. It appears you didn’t have one this time. You had a series of poorly-executed tactics. It was ugly.

The evaluation was just as ugly. Your party lost this election all on your own. If you are shocked by that today, your party has an ugly future in Alberta. Research will show you that.

“I haven’t done the math yet,” said Rachel Notley. Well, when you do, it’s ugly. And partly because your communications strategy sucked.

Election results via the Calgary Herald


PR Politipost – Alberta Election

Disclaimer: I am not a member, nor have I ever been a member of any political party in Canada. I’ve not even donated to any party, ever. I have voted for all parties at some point in my life, red, blue, green, orange, rhinoceros purple, and independent grey. I could care less who wins this election. I think it’s more important to see improved voter turnout. I will admit, after many years of the same thing, change is always a good thing. This is an analysis of the way I see this campaign for the three leading parties.

We PR folk like to watch politics and elections closely. A good chunk of us work/ed in various government roles creating many of the words government officials and politicians speak. However, don’t ever believe we control politicians. We try to help them, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Hence, governments change, and people choose a different path.

mathishard Edm Journal

The 2015 Alberta election, appears in pre-election, to be one of the most interesting in recent (pretty much what anyone working today)  would remember. After all, for nearly 44 years, it’s all any Alberta worker has known. Three generations of workers have only known the Tory dynasty. Crazy thought, eh? What else is crazy? The latest poll has the NDP at 44% support.

What’s different this election is the impact multiple recessions have had on the current workforce. I myself have worked through six recessions or slumps (early 90’s, mid 90’s, dot-com bubble burst of 2000, post-9/11, great recession of 2007, and again in 2015 for just Canada). This includes two in my five years in Alberta! To say the least, I’m kind’ve tired of being beat up each time, and I know I’m far from alone. 25% of my working years have been in a recession, and considering I’m just leaving my younger years, it’s had a much greater impact on me and others under 40 as we take the brunt of layoffs, student loan costs, cutbacks, bank fees, the rising cost of living and taxes.

For those younger than 40, they are getting tired of being treated like crap. “Times are tough” is never said to an executive who makes $16 million a year plus $32 million in options when he doesn’t do a good job and people – 10,000 of them – lose their jobs. In elections, we voters can send a message to politicians that “times are tough,” resulting in them being cut. If only we could take a shot at the executive.

That may be happening now in Alberta. On the other side of the spectrum, the lobbyists are trying to buy votes in any way they can. They’ve planted economists like Jim Mintz high in the org chart for advisors to the sitting government and even Wildrose opposition.

It appears that strategy is not working so well at a time when Albertan’s are forced to foot the bill of nearly all budget problems while corporations and their executives funnel cash from Alberta to the US and other countries – and executive’s blooming bank accounts. This reality is at the expense of Albertan’s who must foot extra taxes while government AND official opposition fight for no change in taxes for corporations.

Mix in the small story in the news this week that 761 workers were killed in Alberta so far this decade, and you can kind of understand that common folk are paying ultimate sacrifices while the elusive “man” walks away with full wads of our cash – and 761 lives. You could say, we’re paying the money to ensure executives (and double-double Mintz) get more money in their pockets. So, we’re running a corporate welfare program.

Check that! The middle and lower classes are running a corporate welfare program?! Wrap your head around that one! How socialist of us.

And, it appears, we’re done.

We voters want to cut the program, lower expenses, and reduce overhead. We also want trust and accountability. 

Enter the Alberta NDP. This is not appearing to be your typical NDP party. Known for supposedly destroying economies in other provinces, Notley’s Crue is pledging balance. They are pledging improvements for workers, incremental increases to corporate and high-income taxpayers, and an oddity in Alberta politics – protection of the environment.

Cough cough! Did I just hear environment as a leading issue in an Alberta election? I must be breathing coal-polluted Edmonton mountain air!

I can’t even believe I’m writing this. It all seems fake and unreal to me. Crazy Klein, Stubborn Stelmach, and Redfaced Redford all survived, but Prim n’ Proper Prentice may be the fall of the dynasty? To the NDP?


Sweetjumpingjimminyjeepers this isn’t the first time Alberta’s flipped!

The last four governments prior to the PCAA dynasty: Social Credit, United Farmers, and even the Liberal Party – all who held social values, and also ran governments for consecutive decades.

Math moment: Four governments lead us in 110 years of voting. My home province of Nova Scotia had 10 governments in as many years. Average governments last 11 years in Nova Scotia, but 27.5 years in Alberta. 

Here’s what the PCAA have taken for granted:

  • People under 40
  • Immigrants from other provinces that have voted for nearly every other party in their home province
  • Working people who they thought cared about the corporate executives
  • Their association to the Wildrose Party due to an almost complete merge and use of the same economic advisor Mintz

The Wildrose is another piece. While people quickly forget, they don’t easily forgive. The last election had an ugly end for the Wildrose. Then, a short time ago, a number of Wildrose defected and crossed the floor to the PCAA.

Voter newsflash: you are both now all one in our eyes (to be clear – you means the PCAA and Wildrose Parties.)

Cue the music from JAWS. And here come the NDP.

Spooky experiment + Scary policies for business + Not in this province + Risky experiment. We’re hearing it now…in equal tone…from…wait for it…both the Wildrose and the PCAA, oh, and even the federal Conservatives (after all, they lose Alberta, Quebec, and split the rest of the country – they are doomed.)

If you managed to stick with me through all of this, you now know why the NDP looks so refreshing, leading, and ready for a chance. They aren’t the same, but they are something Albertans are considering giving a chance at guiding our communities into the next decade. Honestly, I never thought I’d ever say that.

How have they done it? Their focus is on listening to the people under 40, people from other provinces that have voted for nearly every other party in their home party, working people, and those who see the association with the Wildrose Party. You can hopefully now see why they are looking so appealing to many Albertans – they listen to key groups. If I’ve learned anything about the NDP, I’ve watched them out-research any party. In this case, market research about their demographic, issues, and competition.

It’s what PR people have as their most important tool: research. It starts everything for us. Strong research, combined with proper analysis, planning and execution, almost always turns into results that meet goals. The NDP party has done that. The PCAA has not listened, not changed, and by running a terribly executed campaign, looks to fall on the sword. At the end of the formula us PR folk use, is evaluation. An election is an evaluation of a campaign.

I’ll be glued to the results on May 5. I love watching elections, analyzing every result and seeing Canadians exercise their right to vote. Take part, it’s the most important thing you can do as a Canadian, and thanks in advance for your decision, no matter what it is. You’re awesome, we’re awesome, when we vote.


Other links – including a couple examples of many implosions which are happening within the PCAA:

NDP Surge in final poll from Mainstreet + Second Story

Angie Klein, daughter of Ralph Klein, supporting NDP (weird video warning!) 

Very damaging blog from ex-PC minister (and very good education minister) Dave King. Says PCs are corrupt.

PC business donors want PC party to be elected: NDP