BTC: Local v. national


Back during one of those heady days of mid-August when the ethics committee was sitting and Paul Szabo was slowly losing what remains of his hair, Conservative backbencher Pierre Lemieux came up with a remarkable little claim to his own irrelevance.

“It’s well known amongst all our colleagues, even on the other side, that the national campaign has a tremendous impact on the local campaign,” he told one witness. “There are very few candidates who win the election in their riding based on their own efforts.”

This might seem a rather cynical take on the political process here, but is it necessarily true?

Here’s Brian Topp again, from our chat last month.


“The orthodoxy in the recent past was that campaigns were increasingly won on screens. And what we’ve seen in recent campaigns is many campaigns are increasingly won at the door.”

Anecdotally, from a brief few moments on the campaign trail with Martha Hall Findlay, this seems not implausible. The references to Harper and Dion were few and far between. The concerns expressed at the front door were local, almost extremely so—to the point of complaining about the number of cigarette butts left on sidewalks. I doubt that’s uncommon. Though whether caring about local issues corresponds with caring about the local candidate is perhaps a trickier question to answer.

Whatever the case, this is probably something worth following. The NDP has invested heavily in select star candidates, hoping to find another half dozen Thomas Mulcairs. The Liberals, by necessity or desire or both, may make great effort to showcase their “team” (recall here the Green Shift clapping ad). The Conservatives, on the other hand, seem eager to fight a campaign entirely on the question of individual national leadership. As they’ve made explicit over the last week, they want this to be a match of personalities, Harper versus Dion. 

Which at least explains why Pierre Lemieux feels so relatively useless.


BTC: Local v. national

  1. “Though whether caring about local issues corresponds with caring about the local candidate is perhaps a trickier question to answer.”

    I think this is the major point of your post. People are weird, me included, about this topic.

    We have an intense focus on Prime Minister/MPs but they have little affect on our day to day lives. I am continually amazed that people pay so little attention to municipal pols because they are the ones who are responsible for the things that seem to bother us the most.

  2. Having run two local campaigns for federal candidates, and knocked on thousands of doors in the process, I can say with a degree of confidence that “local” matters way, way, way less than “national”.

  3. I would have to agree with ALW up to a point. I also think Dion is making a serious tactical error by using the so-called team approach as what the message is really saying is I am not strong enough to be a real leader and therefeore please vote for me and you might get one the others who are also qualified to lead. The Canadian system is party based system and if a party does not have strong leadership it – well it ends up the like the liberal party.

  4. Everyone’s going after the marginal voter, the fence-sitter, the middle of the road.

    The more ideological among us will likely stick with their party of choice. What your left with is the strength of the candidate, the party or the leader.

    If Harper wants to take the credit for the Tory’s accomplishments, who gets the blame for the bully tactics, red herrings and scandals?

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