I see it now. The NDP would destroy everything. - Macleans.ca

I see it now. The NDP would destroy everything.

Paul Wells on the latest Conservative strategizing


There I was at home last night, getting ready to tweet smack about Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democrat convention, when my emailbox commenced to overflow with a little somethin’ somethin’ from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. It was a few paragraphs of quotes from the minister, faithfully transcribed by his communications director and forwarded to the office of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at 5:35 p.m.

Basically the email said the government was doing what needs doing, but that the NDP would ruin it all if Canadians let them. Nut graf:

“Despite our economic strength as a nation, Canada is not immune to the fragile global economy. That is why the dangerous economic schemes and the higher taxes proposed by Thomas Mulcair and the NDP would be damaging to the Canadian economy and have the potential to hurt businesses and kill the jobs Canadians need to provide for their families.”

This was striking, because Media Party blackberries have been buzzing all week with handy quotations from the government about the NDP. On Wednesday it was Joe Oliver:

“The NDP’s carbon tax is a direct attack on the jobs of almost one million Canadians and we simply cannot afford it. That’s not what Canadians want and it certainly not what the Harper Government wants.”

And on the weekend it was a secret memo from the Conservatives’ campaign manager Jenni Byrne that somehow managed to find its way into reporters’ hands:

“It is also important to ensure Canadian middle class families understand the threat posed by Thomas Mulcair’s risky and dangerous economic plan.”

Now. The simplest explanation for all this is that it is perfectly without guile, that the Conservatives believe what they write and that they have lately been spending weekends and evenings speculating aloud, transcribing one another’s remarks and emailing them to the Press Gallery. Colleague Wherry points out that the opposition to carbon pricing is a late conversion, but you know, people evolve.

But if — hypothetically — there’s strategy to it, what’s the strategy? The government has believed forever that the worst way to get a message out is to recite it to the Media Party. We tend to filter things, it’s said at Langevin. And the government’s communications people have come to understand that the worst time to push out message is dinnertime, because most of the news day is done by then.

Furthermore, it’s not as though the Conservatives haven’t already warned against Mulcair. They ran ads against him for weeks, waiting only long enough to let me finish my column predicting they wouldn’t run ads against him. (That column, he said defensively, was wrong only in British Columbia and Manitoba. In Ontario and Quebec the Conservatives didn’t bother to buy local ad time for this round. The NDP directly threatens the Conservatives in BC and Manitoba; in Ontario its presence is handy because it splits the anti-Conservative vote with the Liberals; and in Quebec it remains so dominant that there’s no point joining the battle yet.)

But anyway. Saturation ad buys for an anti-Mulcair ad in B.C. and around Winnipeg. And then these dinnertime emails. One concludes, tentatively, that:

(a) the ad buy did not have what would have been the desired effect, which is a demonstrable erosion of NDP support in BC and Manitoba;

(b) That’s probably because its “risky economic theories” message is too fancy to have much impact;

(c) so it’s time for another attempt.

Why emails at dusk, though? I think the answer is in the quotes that Joe Oliver’s press person faithfully gathered and disseminated: “Thomas Mulcair’s NDP Caucus is meeting to discuss their dangerous and risky economic plan…”

Ah. The goal isn’t to get us to print this stuff, although sometimes they get lucky and it shows up on a blog somewhere. The goal is to put it into reporters’ heads so some of us will ask Mulcair questions about it at his caucus retreat. And then Mulcair will launch into a long explanation of his carbon pricing policy, and then the Conservatives will be able to use the first, seventeenth and thirty-fifth words out of his mouth as the basis for another round of ads.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” The hope this week was to get Mulcair mired on Thursday in explanations of what he said on Wednesday. It would not be the first time it happened, but this week it doesn’t seem to be working. Here’s the text of Mulcair’s speech to his caucus. There’s not much defensive explanation in it.


Filed under:

I see it now. The NDP would destroy everything.

  1. The thing is, these guys believe that pushing out propaganda like this is somehow effective with media (Sun TV notwithstanding).

    They should stick to providing their legion of paid trolls with mindless diatribes. Those ‘party lines’ will certainly end up on blogs and media sites everywhere.

  2. Why bother try getting Muclair to say something, though? Surely Harper conservatives aren’t above just going ahead and saying he said the thing anyway? Why wait for reality?

    And shame on you media party for your high falutin’ political scienceish analysis. You should be dutifully reporting on what Canadians want to hear, about how Muclair’s risky economic policy will kill babies.

  3. ‘If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find
    something in them to hang him.’ Cardinal Richelieu

  4. and hey wait, isn’t it like treason or something when the press and parties come up with questions together, or is that just for Liberals?

  5. So, uh – you’re not going to ask Mulcair any tough questions because you suspect the Conservatives would like you too? Well played, the Fourth Estate.

    • That’s exactly what he said. Well played …Billiam?!?!

      It’s perfectly obvious to me that a journalist refusing to be conned into using unsolicited emails from a political party constitutes dereliction of duty on the part of the fourth estate.

    • Redding comprension is fudamental.

      • Hey you mispelled a word there Wells – i missed it last time.
        Damn it, it was all three words.

  6. I’m shocked at the poll to the right of this only 16% were paying any attention to politics 12.51% only watch for the scandal 31.31% will tune in Closer to Nov6th. and 39.19 % say what will be will be. OMG no wonder why we are failing to be heard, although this is a US poll and I’m Canadian I imagine it somewhat the same I am just so let down at how little our Countries care about what concerns us all.

  7. I wish the Cons would explain why the ten cent per litre excise tax the fed government currently charges is acceptable but raising the tax a few cents per litre, and renaming it a carbon tax, is somehow going to destroy our economy.

    Our entire political discourse is amateur hour, not just from Cons. Pols are never thoroughly questioned by journos so they are free to spout whatever nonsense they wish.

    • As Ronald Reagan once said, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

      Seems the Cons, and, yes, many of the others agree with Reagan.

    • Taxing anything for the purpose of “carbon” should be considered treason and a federal crime. This does mean we have a few provinces which need to be tried for these very reasons.

    • Because that’s not what’s going to happen. This isn’t renaming a tax, it’s inventing a new one. The old tax continues and a new one is added to the register. However, this new tax will encompass nearly every aspect of our lives, and it cannot merely be coincidence that Al Gore stands to profit in the billions of dollars should carbon taxation and trading schemes come into force via legislation (he owns the “New York Stock Exchange” of carbon trading). This is rent seeking (the seeking of government favor) at its finest.

      Also, just a reminder. The very idea that “X” should be taxed more or “Y” isn’t paying their fair share; those operate under the assumption that government actually needs the money in the first place. What on earth does society stand to gain from the government having more money? Calls for higher taxes amount to little more than envy/hatred by proxy. Government never really does anything positive with the funds, so why bother giving them more?

  8. “The goal is to put it into reporters’ heads so some of us will ask
    Mulcair questions about it at his caucus retreat. And then Mulcair will
    launch into a long explanation of his carbon pricing policy, and then
    the Conservatives will be able to use the first, seventeenth and
    thirty-fifth words out of his mouth as the basis for another round of

    If the Tories are down to plan C,D,F…trying to craftily if not too subtly goad overworked journalists into asking “their” leading questions in order to provoke a few misquotable intemperate remarks from Mulcair, then those Tories appear to be running scared – at least to me. What are they going to try next – knocking on Mulcairs front door and running away?

    • Shhh… next thing, you’ll be putting ideas in their heads…

      • That sounds like way to much fun for this PMO. They’d much rather get knocked up sos they get to yell –

        ‘See i told ya we needed those manditory minimums…birch’n’s too good for door knockers i tell ya.’

  9. the ndp has never proposed a carbon tax. they’ve always promoted cap and trade.

    • Which is too bad, as a carbon tax is an honest, transparent, and efficient means to an end; unlike cap and trade.

      • Is there any federal party that promotes a carbon tax?

        • Not that I’m aware of.

          • As per AnotPorC, below, the Green Party, does, in fact, propose carbon pricing (apparently with offsets in other income areas so as to be revenue neutral).

        • Greens?

  10. Not a fan of Flaherty but hes right about Mulcair

    • Mulcair was a minister in the liberal government in Quebec. HE WAS THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER. He believes in global warming caused by the population. He believes in order to stop using fossil fuels, you need to drive the prices up.

      • It would be more comforting if there was an acceptable, universally applicable alternate source of energy to fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the only thing that comes close to that is nuclear power, which is considered to be unacceptable for a number of reasons.

        Without some reasonably clear and realistic road map on how we go from A to B, it shouldn’t be surprising that people are reluctant to commit to the journey.

        I’m fine with a carbon tax to help reduce fossil fuel usage. And I’m fine with putting money into alternate energy research (assuming it’s spent wisely!), but the arm waving by anti-oil folks that passes for a plan as to how to move beyond a fossil fuel based economy just makes me shake my head in bewilderment. We have the ability to reduce fossil fuel consumption; we are nowhere close to being able to (near) eliminate it now or in the foreseeable future.

        My 2 cents.

        • You should add “nuclear power unacceptable [by a few] for a number of reasons.”

      • Mulcair was about to be demoyed or fired when he resigned on what he called “a matter of principle> the princi[ple was “you can’t fire me, I quit” —– Original Message —–
        From: Disqus
        To: mwaddington@primus.ca
        Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2012 11:07 AM
        Subject: [macleansca] Re: I see it now. The NDP would destroy everything.

        Brenda2600 wrote, in response to puzzled2:

        Mulcair was a minister in the liberal government in Quebec. HE WAS THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER. He believes in global warming caused by the population. He believes in order to stop using fossil fuels, you need to drive the prices up.
        Link to comment

  11. The first section of this post is laid out in such a way as to make one wonder just what the heck the Tories internal polling is telling them?!?!? They seem awfully twitchy. Doth they protest a bit too much???

  12. Some of the comments here are based on assumptions about whether it’s proper for parties to try to influence the questions reporters ask, and imply an obvious question: how should reporters react? For my part, I expect all political parties to try to influence my work. Every party sends fact-check emails about every other party to reporters on most days. Every political spokesman worth his salt will lean toward a few reporters during the post-QP scrums and say something that begins with, “I wonder why….” or “Have you asked them why…”

    I delete most of those emails unread, unless I’m interested in the particular topic. But if I see or hear an interesting question from any source, including a politician’s political opponents, I sometimes ask a similar question. Readers who see politics as total combat between My Side and The Wrong Side will be aghast, as will those who think the next election hinges on the next question a reporter asks at a scrum. Oh well.

    • You mean to say they[ any pol] occasionally tell you the truth about their opponents? Is that happenstance?

  13. It’s true, the NDP would destroy everything. I really don’t know how anyone would argue otherwise.

    • Careful, someone might cross your bridge while you’re away.

      • If it’s not destroyed first.

    • All you have to do is read the constitution of the NDP–they are socialists and demand that all companies are owned by the state; profit is a bad word and should be given to the state.

      • So, I thought to myself, can it really be so? So I read the 2011 NDP constitution, and I gotta say I was surprised to read the line in the Preamble that states “That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to……and not to the making of profit”.

        Despite that line, I was not able to find the demand that all companies are owned by the state, and that profit should be given to the state – can you point those out to me?

        And I gather you aren’t a socialist – but, just out of curiosity, to what extent? Are there any services that are financed and/or delivered in Canada today that you would maintain, given the chance, or would you ditch them all?

  14. NDP gains in BC are no indicator of national futures. While Campbell’s BC Liberal government (read coalition of liberal conservative old Socred ) has been a hated regime (including carbon taxing) this does not mean that NDP has in the past performed any wonders other than ill-advised boondoggles and emptying the treasury. The NDP’s economic view would be a Canadian disaster. Notwithstanding the momentary Layton surge in Quebec, Mulcair had little chance of overcoming the solid performance by Conservatives. But three years remain so we will see.

    Elections in Canada are for the incumbents to lose, not the others to win.

  15. The Harper Conservatives may have noticed the pendulum swinging. We have a bunch of rightwing extremists destroying our social systems and government programs, so of course we Canadians are going to move more to the left so they can repair the damage the right is doing now.

    The Conservatives have two choices. One is to produce a bunch of propaganda against the NDP: but it doesn’t work so well because we’ve seen it before and we don’t believe it.

    Or become less rightwing and stop destroying our social programs; but nobody will believe that they are really changing their ways.

    That’s what happens to liars. Nobody believes them anymore.

    • We can’t afford the social programs we have. We can’t continue to borrow to fund them, look at Europe. Not a fan of the cons but we need to balance our budgets and pay down the debt. I cannot see any way of doing this without curtailing gov’t spending, most of which goes to “social programs”. Raising taxes will only slow the economy leading to higher unemployment. Time we started living within our means, as individuals and at all levels of gov’t or we loose everything like the Greeks.

      • Nonsense; We can raise taxes on the rich and on corporations. We can avoid buying expensive useless things like F35 planes. We can make the Conservatives repay us for all those partisan ads they used our tax money to buy. We can cut the politicians’ and senators’ golden pensions.

        We can do all sorts of things to raise or save money and there is no urgent need to pay down the debt.


      • I’d say that *at this time* we can afford to pay for current services, military, etc. The problem is that in the not too distant future the number of workers to retired folks ratio is going to significantly decrease and at that point it may well be a different story.

    • Pray tell, how are the Cons destroying social programs? I recall that they assured the provinces for several years of stable health care. All the provinces bitched because they ‘were not consulted’ meaning to me that their stupid arguments were scotched before utterance.
      The fact that the ‘national day care program’ was replaced by allowances, be they insufficient for some, is not ‘scrapping social programs’ but bringing sanity to federal funding. Quebec continues to have daycare because federal taxpayers are subsidizing it, a vestige of Liberal rule.
      Having lived in BC through two of the NDP’s much touted regimes makes me shiver at the thought of a national version, as well as the possibility of another under Dix. The effect of the first try was a spendthrift emptying of the provincial coffers, the second the ill-thought-out industrial disaster called the fast ferry scandal – well built by the people that did the job but inappropriate for the routes to be served. Then they were given away for peanuts to the Washington Group who resold them in the Middle East.

      If other memories fail, think of the several boondoggles that the national NDP hero Tommy Douglas perpetrated in Saskatchewan, including the laughable shoe factory.

      As for F-35s, not a single penny has been spent on them so far.and is under review by outside analysts Incidentally, that program was started by the Liberals.

      • I’m no dipper but aren’t you being a little selective ? The BC libs have almost as long a list of cock ups as the NDP in BC – including sellling off BC rail, an affair that should have put a number of libs behind bars or at least out of office. As for earlier NDP govts, Dave Barrett was before my time, but i believe he implemented a number of worthwhile changes that have stood the test of time ie., ICBC and the ALR.
        Campbell’s record was very mixed. Business friendly yes, but in MHO he just got lucky with the real estate boom driving the BC economy for much of his term. He certainly didn’t bring any new busness to the Comox valley where i lived for a big chunk of his time – quite the reverse, small mill towns lost jobs and tax base all over the place. Exporting raw logs has been a boon for the industry but a total disaster for small to medium communities.[ granted the NDP started the process by removing the stipulation that timber rights be linked to local timber supply]. Generally speaking Campbell was no friend to the ordinary working family in BC.
        Notice you don’t mention the successful record of NDP govts in Manitoba. And Douglas had an unmatched record in running deficit free govt.

        • Neither do I have any time for the BC Libs – Campbell was a disaster of many dimensions, most particularly in his bureaucratization of health care.
          I suggest you read a bit about the sorry story of crown corporations under Douglas. As for deficits I think he lived in a time when few provinces had deficits, nor did the Lib feds.

          But I don’t live in a pro con world -there is good and bad in all, just that some swing too far. Think of Campbell as righteous revolt against the extremes of Glen Clark.