Election Day 2008 is history and the results were not as some of us wished for locally or across the country. My numbers being down so much from last time begs the question; why. Overall our only consolation is that Mr. Harper did not get the majority he was hoping for and as you probably saw on the federal level the knives were out right-away if we are to believe the media. Also, though Mr. Dion announced that he will be leaving as soon as a new leader is elected they appeared to expect me to project blame and they continue to speculate on possible infighting in search of a story. Since it will likely be awhile before another election we can hope that Mr. Harper quits jacking around and starts with the business of governing, hopefully in the best interests of all Canadians.
Before proceeding further I want to take this opportunity to thank my campaign team and all that supported me whether in actively campaigning or by voting for me. Though I did so on Election night and individually I hope I didn’t miss someone which I can see might be easy to do. Some days I didn’t make it to the office because of how schedule and commitments worked out so I may not have met some supporters. However; I will take the chance and recognize the following: Russ, Lorne, Mary, Lynn, Pat, Mel, Bal, Frank, Hubert, Leslie, Rita, Marie, Dianne, Diane, Audrey, Stan and students, Roberto, Ryan, Andrew, Zack, Jessica and Anastasia. Thanks a mil all.
Also, since good business practice suggests we should do a review, assess the process and outcome and compile a report I developed a questionnaire to assist me get feedback I believe may be helpful for next time and I have arranged for a get-together to review and debrief with the team and others on Saturday Oct. 25. Though a more tangible measure it’s idealistic to expect everyone to respond. To date those returned confirm some observations expected and identified room for improvement.
As you likely know since nomination I took every reasonable opportunity available to attend community events, went door-to-door and kept abreast of party information and the political scene in general to help get known. As you might anticipate I got questioned as to why I was doing it when an election had not been called. Some suggested it to be a futile exercise given the entrenched Conservative tradition here. None-the-less I soldiered on occasionally doing door-to-door since it is also an opportunity to hear from some people what they perceive the issues to be. I also attended as many public events as possible where the same sentiments were also expressed. Many appeared to have bought into the unrelenting Conservative propaganda in addition to which Mr. Harper and the Conservatives provided no plan until no opportunity was available for it to be challenged. Likewise, they continued to deny a recession was underway until the election was over. It’s interesting to observe the dance of avoidance and euphemisms used and now they even admit openly that they plan to elicit buy-in by the opposition so they can not be blamed. I’m anxiously waiting to hear if any voters feel lied to the same as in the Spring when the Provincial Conservatives unabashedly granted themselves a 34% remuneration increase that wasn’t raised in the platform or election campaign. It baffles me how those that vote for them can in good conscience do so for a party that only provided a vague plan at the last minute when there was no opportunity for debate and allowed themselves to be conned into believing such party governs best when history shows otherwise. What a mockery; within hours of re-election Mr. Harper started admitting the potential for problems in our economy? He even produced an action plan to deal with downturn which action he had ridiculed Mr. Dion on. He now freely admits the possibility of deficit budgeting. So I respectfully ask; in retrospect, who was being truthful? No wonder the majority of the public are skeptical. However, let’s get back to the review and report on the campaign.
As you might guess, because of people’s time, responsibilities and other commitments it is difficult to entice supporters to commit to a role other than a general commitment that they’ll help when the time comes. As you might also anticipate when the time comes the realities of living and circumstances dictate the need for other considerations. Life and living just doesn’t always cooperate the way we desire. Unfortunately, health or other circumstances had intervened for some and consequently we were left scrambling for replacements. Whether because of an increasingly wobbly economy or what, it was difficult to get volunteers, and since everyone including candidates are volunteer it becomes equally difficult to accept criticism as volunteered by one individual that “it was the worst-run campaign she had ever seen”.
Fortunately, most feedback received is relatively objective and positively framed making it easier to accept. It sure helps one empathize with and understand what Mr. Dion, such a person of integrity and honor had to go through, though on a much larger level. Assuming everyone did their best and to put the election experience and results in perspective I suggest we remember the huge pessimism amongst so much of the electorate and the corresponding drop in voter turn-out that continues to worsen. The lack of a valid reason for an election at this time doesn’t enhance the prospects for in the near future. Unfortunately these considerations don’t address the issue of voter apathy which we all need to think long and hard about. We need to realize how dangerous apathy can be. What happened in Nazi Germany springs to mind and I hope all of us would want take action against the increasing fundamentalism that encourages isolative thinking that polarizes rather than draws people together as one should expect in a world which with passage of time and experience should be more enlightened as knowledge. It seems like the more free time we get, the more self-indulged we become the more apathetic and increasingly intolerant we may become consequently the more we need to become aware of our outlook.
For better or worse, Mr. Harper appears to have caught-on and understands how to get in power and hang on at all costs. It appears the end justifies the means for him. Part of his strategy is to get the opposition started prematurely so volunteers will tire. Also, the public are likely to perceive one as anxious and/or jumping the gun. At the end of the spring session of Parliament Mr. Harper sensed the need to move for several reasons and over the summer psyched the public into accepting a need for an election despite his set election date for Oct. 2009. Shortly before his actual call it became clearer that they meant business this time which was underscored by the Conservatives’ starting to engage offices. We too decided it was time to move on securing space. Unfortunately, the first couple of possibilities we unearthed fell through and we were already a couple of days into the campaign before good fortune hit. As a result of my connections and thanks to Aboriginal Housing we secured ideally located space that became our campaign office.
Though Russ, Mary, Lorne and Pat kicked into gear right-away others because of commitments had difficulties extricating and freeing the time required right-away. As anyone that has worked closely in a campaign knows there’s lots that needs to be attended to especially right-away. In retrospect, an office ‘work-plan’ (see attached sample based on the 2008 campaign) would have been helpful from the start since a campaign office must run independently though of course for and without the candidate who has so many duties. When not busy on getting up-to-speed on policy, platform, politics in general, there are interviews, forums, open-houses and speaking engagements and in the balance of time available he must fit in door-to-door campaigning. Required activities and expectations leave little time for much else when attempting to fit all that is expected into the shortest campaign-time in Canadian history. It was difficult to carve out time for practice of speeches though fortunately I was reasonable familiar with party policies most of which were eventually weaved into the platform. I also had to endeavor to keep my policy manual current since no stepped forward or was prepared to monitor, generate and update the manual which is a must for quick reference in the forums. This manual is most important and needs highest priority in any campaign. Due to lack of time I was only able to drop by the office occasionally as time and commitments allowed. On return home at night there are phone calls to be returned and many received responses to their emails at 2 or 3 am.
Issues raised varied depended on location, those raising them, the day and current national issues. As you might guess the main issues were; health, the carbon tax, the Wheat Board and choice for farmers and later in the campaign the economy. Though I hate to admit it I often found myself defending our leader, the Green Shift and gun-control; some even resurrected the NEP and some questioned the need for the election. Many appeared to doubt the Green Shift tax return plan and some appeared hung-up ideologically about crime, childcare and abortion. In an attempt to obtain feedback and to help bring conclusion to the campaign I developed and fanned out a questionnaire and requested feedback.
Review of returns of the Post-election Review questionnaire distributed to obtain feedback indicates 8 of a possible 25 respondents completed and returned the survey and one provided a brief scathing freelance observation that “it was the worst managed campaign they had seen over the years”. In summary, all answered the first question affirmatively. Five answered question 2 positively and 6 answered questions 3 and 4 in the affirmative and similarly the majority responded affirmatively to the next 3 questions. Four responded affirmatively to questions 5 and 6. Three responded negatively to questions 5 and 6. The majority answered questions 7,8, 9 and 10 affirmatively and two did not rate q 10. Question 11 was 50:50 and 3 responded affirmatively to qs 12 and 13 while four gave no indication. One did not respond to number 14 and the other 7 respondents varied in degree of feedback for additional observations. A couple of memos from young people over the past couple of days were most insightful are summarized as follows:
"oh well; this is SA, the green shift was not well packaged and difficult to sell, the Cons. were well-financed and used it to decimate Stephane and our message in the minds of voters and then we were side-swiped by the economic down-turn which the Cons. used to full advantage and people obviously bought". Otherwise they appeared positive to go again. I encouraged and pointed to the need for young people to be involved in party activities. It was noted that stars must align; people, money, leadership, economy, timing and there must be no turning back once on the train. Everyone must be supportive and aggressive in pursuit of as much funding as possible to ensure the best job possible and to not only counter the opposition but be in the lead disseminating the message we want the electorate to have. One person can not be expected to be a miracle worker doing the job and trying to turn the tide. We must remember the purpose of a party, in this instance the Liberal Party is to further Liberal policies and assist in electing a representative that will achieve this goal. In joining a party we agree with these goals and principles and do our utmost to achieve the richer, fairer, greener, gentler Canada we all so much want.
Having reviewed operation of this last campaign the following is a Summary of Recommendations for next Campaign:
1. Generation of an organized, up-to-date ‘Policy Manual’ should be the number 1 priority
2. Next, a tentative ‘Work Plan’ should be developed for the next election based on 38 days (that identifies the need for daily updates in keeping with the various deadlines required as well as the length of the election campaign).
3. The ‘work-plan’ should identify need for office to be rented as soon as positive indications of a pending ‘Election Call’ i.e. the governing party arranging same.
4. That the work-plan identify earliest possible date for arrangements for installation of phones, furniture and computers
5. That work-plan to identify the need for and indicate regular dates for staff meetings as well as for meetings with candidate.
6. That the work-plan should identify the need for a letter to be drafted on the first or second day of the campaign addressed to list of identified donors – members and supporters asking for a contribution at the earliest possible time since expenditures and what needs to be done depend on funding available. Letter should identify the necessities required for a successful campaign i.e. office, phone and furniture rentals, signs, brochures, mailing, travel and how because of the short duration of a campaign suppliers will only supply C.O.D (Volunteers need to be assigned right-away to follow-up after the letter should be received. It should be noted that Elections Canada rules require that only personal cheques can be accepted and they will be income-tax receipted. It is best that as soon as the individual offers that they plan on contributing we personally offer to pick-up and deliver the cheque to the agent).
7. That the work-plan to identify the need for manager and office staff to identify the date for mailing brochures to both rural and urban areas, (Work Plan to identify the need for the Brochure Committee to complete and arrange for production of same as soon as the Party Platform is released).
8. That work-plan should suggest early date for phone follow-up re donations and a subsequent follow-up if necessary and specify the need for in-person contact and to offer immediate pick-up.
9. That work-plan to identify need for arrangements for distribution, location and tracking of signs (to assist later with pick-up).
10. That work-plan to identify need for arrangements for closedown of the office and returns.
Thanks to the party for affording me the opportunity to serve you and our community in such a prestigious and honorable undertaking. Thanks especially to all those that helped whether with financial support, in the office, door-to-door, signs or whatever else and sorry that despite our Trojan efforts the number of those voting Liberal actually dropped contrary to what I certainly hoped for. Special thanks to Mary Insley, Russ, Lorne, Pat, Lynn, Mel, Frank, Doug, Bal, Lee, the many others that helped in whatever way, and especially Senator Joyce who accompanied me to many outlying locations. Unfortunately, it seems like it was not meant to be and we didn’t get as much money as we’d hoped for either. Starting we had almost $11,000 from the trust account and our spending was approximately $23,000 consequently we only raised approximately $12,000. Thanks to all the contributors including those that contributed the maximum allowable. Unfortunately, it appears that some people believe that corporate support is still allowed but unfortunately; it is no longer allowed under Elections Canada guidelines. Thanks again all.
The outcome overall and locally was disappointing. It was my hope to increase the number voting Liberal here rather than getting less than last time. Please accept my apologies. I accept some but not total responsibility since a candidate can not be responsible for long-standing cynicism, disconnection and voter apathy, but deserves everyone’s support in everyway possible and underscores once again the importance of the greatest membership base possible as well as funding whether on the local or national level. The national campaign and platform was hijacked by the super-financed Conservatives who were prepared to do anything to hold-on to power. They figuratively assassinated Mr. Dion right-away on his assuming leadership and saturated the media with advertising emphasizing the carbon-tax aspect of the Green Shift which was questioned by many voters by then skeptical added to which their (Conservative) luck increased when signs of the economy spluttering showed in the last week of the campaign. They quickly latched to it suggesting the need for Canadians to stay the course with the “tried and true” rather than risking new ideas and tax-increases. The outcome is now history.
I recommend that as the Conservatives did over the past 3 years we continue campaigning so we’re ready as soon as the next writ is dropped, likely in a couple of years, quite possibly 18 months since they (Conservatives) will not want a new Liberal Leader to get established. I predict Mr. Harper will do his utmost to have it appear as though it’s our fault again when the next election is triggered. I also recommend that the recommendations noted herein be adopted for the next campaign. Respectfully submitted,
Michael Cormican, Liberal Candidate 2008 Election