Tuesday, May 19, 2009

BC NDP strategy failed in 2009 election campaign - #1 issue - the economy - avoided

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours & The Tyee Column

Tuesday May 19, 2009

NDP future cloudy in shadow of loss


This is today's 24 hours newspaper column, which is also in The Tyee.

NDP Blew the Campaign

Party's slogans, and strategy, were incoherent. Learn from this.

By Bill Tieleman

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.

- Sun Tzu, 544 - 496 B.C.

What was the New Democratic Party's strategy to defeat B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell?

How was it different from 2005? And why did it fail again?

These are the tough questions NDP MLAs, and activists must ask themselves immediately if they are to have any chance to win in 2013.

Several errors in its 2009 election efforts are already crystal clear.

Any party that uses not one, not two, but three main slogans in a 28-day campaign is in serious jeopardy.

Yet the NDP started off with the social work-sounding -- "Because Everyone Matters", then switched to the retro "Take Back Your B.C." -- at best, a call to return the province to the people.

It was an easy target for the right-wing Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the well-funded B.C. Liberal proxy enforcers, to run ads saying: "Yeah, way back!"

Then the final NDP campaign slogan: "Eight Years of Gordon Campbell Is Enough!"

And not content with three different slogans, the NDP also blended and merged them into other variants, like "Take Back Your B.C. Because Everyone Matters" or "Eight Years Is Enough -- Take Back Your B.C.!"

This was not a good sign for the campaign.

Too much negativity

Neither was the absence of a positive policy focus in the platform.

Ask voters and the two things they would probably cite as the key NDP promises were increasing the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour and axing the carbon tax.

Both had positive appeal but neither had the salience to either mobilize potential NDP voters or change minds. And they were well-known positions months before the election.

Most disastrously, the NDP studiously ignored the number one issue on voters' minds -- the economy -- despite enormous available ammunition.

B.C. led the country in jobs losses in March with 23,000 and lost 63,000 from January to March, disastrous numbers that should have been the focus of hard-hitting NDP ads -- but they weren't.

Case of Premier fear?

The NDP appeared scared to take Campbell on -- and let him even go so far as to publicly criticize the party for not having the backing of any business groups!

Did the NDP respond that they didn't want Campbell's bankrollers on their side?

That B.C. shouldn't trust the multinational corporations whose greed and mismanagement had brought the world to the brink of economic disaster?

Of course not. They shrugged it off.

Instead, the NDP ads featured health care, post-secondary tuition, education, the B.C. Legislature raid scandal, privatization, homelessness, transit cuts, raw log exports and, oh yeah, job losses.

The result -- NDP voters stayed home, unmoved by a listless campaign.

The NDP dropped 80,949 votes in 2009 compared to 2005 and this election had just 26,375 more votes than its winning total in 1996.

The Liberals won with just 63,000 more total votes than the NDP province-wide.

And a far better strategy.

View full article and Tyee comments here:



DPL said...

Gosh Bill, Ms.James and a few others close to her, will be looking to attack some one and that someone may well be you. Her inner circle seem to have missed a lot of opportunites. The old, maybe next time doesn't sit well with many of us. Maybe they figure Saint Gordo will get his time on the stages of the big circus and depart "to spend more time with his family" , leaving the bills to someone else. If those folks who don't like the NDP get gored enough and by then, the NDP changes leader it could change things. In the meantime we are in a recession although some folks are making big bucks. Gordo and his MLa's seem well fed and clothed. The Liberal guys who want favours will still be getting those favours if, of course they contribute lots of cash.
No shortage of very expensive homes or cars in this village of Victoria. Lots of poor in the streets, but they arn't noticed by the really important folks.
I still remember the old NDP war horse telling us. "This is not a good time to form government". I asked her just when did she figure was going to be the good time? Another four years of more of the same or maybe worse.

Anonymous said...

I think the NDP ran as good a campaign as could be asked for given that Carol James was their leader. A different campaign wouldn't have changed the results. A different MALE leader might have. BC voters have made it clear they are not going to entrust the premier's job to a woman. Has the Audrey McLaughlin/Alexa McDonough experiment, federally, taught the NDP nothing?

Anonymous said...

When you have recycled staff like Ian Reid as part of your brain trust you are doomed from the start. The issues of legitimacy around many candidates is also concerning. Lack of preperation, Richmond, zero experience in much of anything, candidates due to default, etc,etc,etc, what else could you expect to come from this type of scenario. And to make it even more interesting Carol didn't hire the best to assist her in the campaign, she hired her daughter. And the difference between her style and Campbells? The little things are usually a foreshadowing of bigger things to come?

When you speak with members of ridings and they, before the election, voice that they need to get rid of Carol you are already on a path of failure. The inner grumblings appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Where is the ace in the hole historically speaking. You know the next Tommy Douglas type, greatest Canadian, pound the pulpit get the message out take care of your neighbour leader.

The one sure thing angle and the NDP run away from it. At least it's a good starting point. But then again it's more important for Carol to be a small "D" dictator. Kind of like playing Gordon's little sister role.

Skookum1 said...

Speaking of Nova Scotia, just this morning I saw a new ad out here (I'm in Hali) that revved things up a notch and would seem to reflect the non-experience of the BC campaign; going for the throat; can't provide a link yet, doesn't seem to be on their site so far, it's very new. Pretty much an attack ad, although their one until now assailed MacDonald for using attack ads.....but otherwise was too touch-feely idealistic etc instead of seeking to draw blood. This is a culture of good manners out here, though, so the new ad still isn't maybe as cutting as you'd find in the US; but someone in the NDP has studied the BC campaign for sure.....current poll is NDP 31%, Libs right in behind, MacDonald down in the 20s....prob a minority, as the radio talk is sounding off that....

Anonymous said...

The NDP having Carole James for a leader and going up against the 1000 Year Campbell Reich in an election in 2009 is as logical as . . . "Taking Mother Teresa to Gunfight".

Politics is war by other means, and the NDP had a Neville Chamberlain for a leader and the BC Liberals had that "other-man" and it was a repeat of Munich 1938.

Peace In Our Time . . . Eh Carole?!


BC Mary said...

Ya want a new leader, who is smart, courageous, politically astute, experienced, funny ... AND female?

Joy MacPhail.


John B said...

I was wondering when the first of the long knives came out.

Rod Smelser said...

As usual, many ANONYMOUS people who want to "help" the NDP understand why it's not winning are blaming the leader. Because they know that's not the problem. Misdirecting NDP activists to "fix" the wrong thing is one of the most important strategies in the Coalition arsenal.

While I don't agree at all with the explicit anti-women comments, it is true that NDP strategists knew from any number of pre-election polls that the Liberals had a huge, twenty point or more lead among men, compared to a small lead or no lead among women.

Politically correct morons in the NDP, seeing these results, would then go on and on about how this proves that Premier Gordon M. Campbell lacks emmpathy, caring and sharing values, etc., and cut funding to women's centres, and therefore has little appeal to women.

To any reasonable person polling figures like that would be seen as a red alert emergency, a serious need to examine the underlying causes for the disastrous situation among male voters and get it fixed before the election comes around.

Skookum1 said...

Mary: "Ya want a new leader, who is smart, courageous, politically astute, experienced, funny ... AND female?"

A: Laila Yulle.

Anonymous said...

There were election issues where individual Lib MLAs should have been punished. Cambie mismanagement - although partly a federal problem - was rewarded with a loss of an NDP seat, after voters suffered 3 years of unnecessary traffic jams and diversions.

Then there is Stonewally. Brazen Obstruction of Justice didn't register on voters.

And in Fraserview, the NDP candidate drew only a couple of thousand voters from his 25,000 Chinese ethnic bloc, even though he is a TV personaliy, widely known to the group. Kash Heed could have been sandbagged for his early retirement from police services, abandonment of the city for West Van, and the manipulative $40,000 kiss-off that he received from West Van's Lib doormat city council.

I blame Canwest for linking Gordo to moves against gangs. Front page after front page of gang conduct, drove irrational fear into voters. Nevermind 5 years of inertia by the BC Integrated Gang Task Force. The NDP could have attributed belated gang arrests to default circumstances: every charge has been the result of gang members who ratted out leaders in exchange for police protection. The Libs took credit for voluntary statements from walk-ins. Great reward for opening doors to scared criminals.

Skookum1 said...

"The NDP could have attributed belated gang arrests to default circumstances: every charge has been the result of gang members who ratted out leaders in exchange for police protection. The Libs took credit for voluntary statements from walk-ins. Great reward for opening doors to scared criminals."

Agreed. Dennis Karbanovec (sp?), who came forward with information on the Surrey Six killings, was motivated by his own conscience, not by fear of the law or fear of Gordon Campbell; most of all, in the news clips of him, you could see it in his face and bearing. There was no gain in it for him; he will have to be in protective custody for his whole sentence, as informants "inside" are held as traitors and their lives are at risk. But also in his face, or on his head rather, you could see the (literal) scars of a life led as a professional tough guy, of a "bully culture" which is an outgrowth both of BC's burgeoning drug underworld (a direct byproduct/consequenceo of the War on Drugs, and of our jacked real estate market) and also of the "hockeyhead" culture this country cultivates in its young men - "violence is golden" as one minor player I knew once quipped.

Policing and stricter gang-laws won't change the bedrock of the criminal culture in BC; education, socialization, better opportunities for younger men (particularly younger white men, who are often economically disenfranchised by preferences in many workplaces for women, visible minorities, etc) and a broadening of the sports culture away from the current obsession with (violent) hockey, mixed martial arts etc. That's all hotly debatable no doubt, but I've watched it grow in the last twenty years; the violent end of BC's underworld is a career opportunity for younger males of any background that the regular economy just doesn't provide. As times get worse, expect more young men to turn their natural aggression into a means of living. And a not-surprising sentiment you'll hear from within their ranks about crime, is that the government and the police are crooks anyway....so why not them too?

Karbanovce's confession stands out in contrast to the ranks of tight-lipped Liberals and corporate types who know a lot more about corporate/political crime in BC than any of them have had the courage - or principle - to tell. By contrast, Karbanovec - though an admitted killer - seems to have something approaching nobility. Dave Basi's threatening to spill the beans, or implying he will anyway, but how many and how far remains to be seen. But who else might break ranks other than Cardoso and Nettleton and expose corruption in our government's dealing with corruption? An estimate of the total value of corrupt contracts in BC has not been, so far as I know, researched or published; but it would be an interesting figure to set up aside the estimates on the value of the drug trade. Given the budget of the Commercial Crime unit, vs the probable value of corrupt government/corporate deals, are we getting value for money?

Or are we just getting anti-crime policies which go only after the violent underclass, whose growth is not unconnected to the declining opportunities and eroded values of a corrupt society? And for those elements of the "crime wave' that are outside BC's or Canada's attempts at control - the cartels and tongs - exactly WHAT can a provincial government do (since crime is really a federal responsibility). Upping the number of police, or electing police officers and giving them cabinet positions (Coleman, and now probably Heed) is not going to do ANYTHING.

Skookum1 said...


The idea that the NDP would be less tough on crime is pure rank propaganda. They MIGHT be tougher on corporate crime, and that's another reason that they were railroaded by the media.

As for overall NDP strategy for 2013, seeing Carole dig in her heels and promise to try harder just doesn't cut it. Since she's hanging onto her job tightly, I hope she goes and gets some training in telegenics like Gordo did, and they start studying Obama's campaign in detail. Trumpeting idealistic values alone or touting her value as a female candidate alone is not enough; it clearly didn't work this time....