You want votes? Get off the script

The party that wins this election will be the one that finds a way to connect with Canadians in an authentic way

Reading Time: 3 minutes

FirbyAn election campaign is a contest, not for the party faithful, but for the undecided voters who could tilt toward any of the major choices under the right circumstances.

But, just as the outdated consumer loyalty to a certain automotive has gone out the window, so too has party loyalty. Votes are no longer passed from father to son the way they once were.

The size of the swing vote can vary – the less the voters connect with the parties and their platforms, the more likely they are to sit on the fence, awaiting something that will win them over. That is the case for one in 10 of the completely undecided voters so far, according to an Ipsos poll conducted for Global News and released this week.

Although it is much too soon to draw conclusions in this exceptionally long campaign, it is a troubling sign for all three of the major parties. In spite of a lively leaders’ debate last week, no leader has been able to set a fire in the bellies of the supporters they need to win if they hope to form government. Think of it as a failure to launch.

It is also a good reason why no government will ever put “None of the above” as a ballot option. Too many voters would feel compelled to tick that box.

The voter ambivalence has to be particularly troubling, however, for the incumbent Conservatives. Not being in a clear lead in the early going effectively puts the party behind the challengers, because it means some of the voters who gave them a mandate last time around aren’t so sure they’ll do the same again.

The Ipsos poll confirms that: It found that only four in 10 decided voters are ‘absolutely certain’ of their vote choice. Of those, roughly one-quarter name the Liberals as their second choice and roughly the same number the NDP. Less than one voter in 10 says the Tories would be their second choice.

That ambivalence was apparent when I reached out to friends this week in social media. My friends range from true blue conservatives to those firmly on left. Regardless of stripe, their comments reflected what the polling tells us.

“I’m a card-carrying PC member, and have been completely turned off by the rhetoric from the PCs of late,” wrote one. “. . . All scare tactics. All fear-mongering. I feel like the party has lost touch with what it actually means to be a conservative.”

“Quite honestly it’s a saw-off between voting with my heart and voting with my head, between my conscience and my pocketbook,” wrote another. “But I can say, I won’t vote Liberal.”

“I am hovering in the none-of-the-above category for now,” wrote another.

This makes for an exciting ground war. The promises made; the scandals exposed; the fumbles and foibles of each of the parties will be dissected in and out, the way a psychic reads the tea leaves.

After Labour Day, that is, when voters start watching the campaign in earnest.

Which brings a key point to mind. It feels like the party that ultimately wins this election will be the one that finds a way to connect with Canadians in an authentic way. That will require the leaders to get off the contrived and heavily scripted messages, to listen carefully to what they hear on the hustings and to actually answer the questions that are put to them, rather than reciting a carefully rehearsed script.

Part of the sea change in Canada’s political landscape is the growing rebellion against the obvious and cynical manipulation of facts. The Conservatives have been attacked for this, but neither of the two major challengers are innocent either.

If we can truly get to honest conversations, then there might be hope yet for democracy in this country.

Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.

© Troy Media


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