24 hours columnists have a wealth of experience in politics - so we decided to throw Bill Tieleman, Erin Airton, Alex Tsakumis and Ian King a curve ball and ask each to give advice to a political leader they wouldn't vote for in the Oct. 14 election. And we warned them - no bad tips to trip up the leader they were assigned!
STEPHEN HARPER CONSERVATIVES
By Bill Tieleman
One thing Harper has to avoid in the final stretch of the campaign is...
Don't let the media knock you off your winning message.
Harper is running a tightly controlled campaign with little opportunity for national or local reporters to put a spoke in his wheels.
While this infuriates reporters and no doubt many voters, they don't vote Conservative!
Harper needs to continue pushing his relentless message that he is the only leader capable of being prime minister and that he is more moderate than many voters believed he could be.
Stay cool, calm and collected ... and keep the local candidates quiet - they can only cause trouble if they talk.
One advantage Harper has above the other candidates is...
That Harper is the prime minister. Sounds simple but Harper knows how to use the advantages of his office and has been doing so throughout the campaign.
The more Harper looks like and sounds like the only choice who could be prime minister, the more likely he is to win a majority government.
Voters put heavy emphasis on leadership in an election - far more than issues - and even those who doubt some of Harper's policies may be convinced to set aside those doubts because there isn't a viable alternative.
Harper should drive that home in the last campaign days.
To win next week's debate Stephen Harper has to...
Pump up NDP leader Jack Layton and Green Party leader Elizabeth May and bash Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe hard while dismissing Liberal leader Stephane Dion constantly or even ignoring him.
The Greens can't elect a single MP and even a big boost for the NDP won't threaten most Conservative MPs. But a small rise for both parties could seriously hurt Liberals in ridings where they are competitive with the Tories.
Dion's unfortunate challenges in speaking understandable English means he will have a hard time impressing voters versus Harper, Layton and May - and even Duceppe may come across better.
JACK LAYTON NEW DEMOCRATS
Tieleman was the communications director to former premier Glen Clark.
By Erin Airton
One thing Layton has to avoid in the final stretch of the campaign...
Halfway through the campaign, Layton seems to have garnered good momentum, slowed perhaps only by the sudden "resignation" of three B.C. candidates.
He is the fortunate recipient of the demise of the Liberals, particularly here in B.C. His challenge will be to continue to demonstrate his own brand of leadership so that if the Liberals manage a bounce in the polls after the debate it won't steal too many votes back from his team.
Layton and the NDP need to hold their course, and continue to capitalize on weak Liberal voters, especially women, who can't stomach Dion.
One advantage Layton has above all other candidates...
Besides the dashing moustache, Layton's other strengths are his appeal to middle income women, who have traditionally voted Liberal, and the polling that places him as more credible on the environment than Dion.
Layton also gets points from union workers for his anti-business rhetoric, which gives him an advantage in struggling forest communities or areas beginning to feel the pinch of a potential recession.
In an election increasingly about strong leadership in challenging times, leftist voters are drawn to Layton's solid, serious campaign, which is in sharp contrast to the train-wreck that has the Liberals down to 15 per cent in B.C.
To win next week's debate, Jack has to...
The biggest stumbling block successful campaigns tend to have in the final days is a tendency for cockiness. Layton will need to maintain iron-clad control of his candidates, something that has been a challenge, and prove in the upcoming debate that he has the royal jelly to be more than just a second-tier opposition leader.
He needs to overcome his natural glibness when the questions get tough and appear thorough, well-briefed and, well, a leader. If Layton can avoid being cast as the perpetually sniping underdog, he might well appeal enough to Ontario voters to garner some of the softest Liberal seats.
Airton formerly worked with the B.C. Liberal Party and federal Conservatives.
STEPHANE DION LIBERALS
By Alex G. Tsakumis
One thing Dion has to avoid in the final stretch of the campaign is...
Dion must avoid getting drawn into the increasing grumbling by members of his caucus, party apparatus and even past hierarchs. It's clear they think he is a liability.
Try and stay positive. Don't engage them as some of your candidates have. Be the Fonz - stay cool.
Dion should allow Ignatieff and Rae to campaign as his surrogates everywhere except Ontario and Quebec, for obvious reasons. Dion is only effective with smaller groups.
Liberal numbers are in free-fall because the more Canadians see of Dion, the less they like him. As a result, the Liberals must relentlessly pursue the NDP, since they can't compete with the Conservatives anywhere in Canada. In B.C. the Grits could end up with one seat.
Mind, the Liberal's B.C. team is largely responsible for the successful hits on the disgraced, resigned NDP candidates.
It's not how I would ever run a campaign, but this is how the Martinite crew running Dion have ever achieved a win: bare-knuckled and scorched earth. Layton has candidates and supporters who are 9/11 conspiracy theorists and openly supportive of Islamofascism - exploit this now!
Don't send emails to the media; get Dion to make the announcement, challenge Layton to repudiate such insanity.
One advantage Dion has over the other leaders is ...
Less is expected of him than any of Duceppe, May, Layton or the Prime Minister, therefore any surprising gains by the Grits will look that much bigger.
To win next week's debate Dion has to...
Dion will have to perform with expert precision during the English language debate, since his campaign is deep in the tank. When he remains calm, he is understandable, but if he is challenged, and loses his composure, he might as well be speaking to Canadians in Ancient Greek.
Tsakumis was a political advisor to former premier Bill Vander Zalm.
ELIZABETH MAY GREENS
By Ian King
One thing May has to avoid in the final stretch of the campaign is...
Getting badly divided between the Green national campaign and her own bid for a seat in Nova Scotia, and flubbing them both. Never mind temporary MP Blair Wilson; May is by far her party's best chance of getting a seat this election.
Winning a seat in a general election gives the Greens more credibility than their previous accomplishments combined. A word of advice: The main benefit of deputy leader Adriane Carr running in Vancouver Centre is its proximity to TV studios should a Green sound bite be needed nationally.
Carr has no chance of winning her seat and can concentrate on the national effort.
One advantage May has above the other candidates is...
She's the closest thing to a maverick in Canadian politics today. Her personality helps; she's not as buttoned down as Harper and Dion, nor is she glib like Layton. May annoys free-marketeers, supporting a carbon tax, more regulation, and reopening NAFTA.
She's also infuriated many on the left by revealing her own difficulty with abortion rather than giving a pat answer. Her refusal to play it safe gets jeers from hardliners. For most Canadians, less and less tied to traditional left-right dogma, May's eclectic views and willingness to speak her mind can come across as genuine.
To win next week's debate May has to...
Every leader dreams of scoring that memorable blow; think Brian Mulroney's 1984 "You had an option, sir," or Gordon Wilson's "This is why nothing ever gets done" quip in 1991.
The opportunity to deliver that blow doesn't always come about - even to a skilled debater. Climate change will be her best chance to stand out.
If May can relate climate change to people's everyday lives - and show that neither the NDP nor the Conservatives are being upfront about the cost of fighting global warming - she can come out of the debate as the one candidate people are talking about the next day.
King is writes on regional politics for Vancouver 24 hours.