Conservative message lost amid leaks and refugee crisis

By Ian Capstick · September 10, 2015

The CPC message is becoming lost to two competing stories: the ongoing refugee crisis and the emerging narrative of a Conservative campaign in panic mode. The stories intersect at the strategic level and reveal an interesting weakness in the CPC campaign.

It’s important to note two key facts: Ray Novak, Harper’s chief of staff, was sent back to Ottawa after becoming a distraction during the Duffy trial, and the CPC team has regular issues management problems (even during non-election times). Jenni Byrne, CPC campaign manager, has been based in Ottawa in all previous federal campaigns, but this year she hired a loyal war room team and hopped on the official tour. The results have been less than spectacular, and this is where inside baseball connects to the much more important refugee crisis.

Without Novak and Byrne side-by-each, communications issues cropped up as poll numbers softened and well-known CPC sources started to complain. The lacklustre response to the crisis in Europe and ongoing pressure to do more for refugees is fueling candidate and staff apprehensions and resulting in leaks.

All of this resulted in two ugly stories from the CPC tour yesterday.

The lede paragraph from Joanna Smith at the Toronto Star:

“WELLAND—At a federal election campaign event, Canada’s foreign affairs minister fled reporters and Conservative supporters heckled journalists Wednesday for trying to ask questions of Stephen Harper about his handling of the Syrian refugee crisis amid growing calls for Canada to do more.”

Jennifer Ditchburn’s article, Blame game being played out inside lumbering Conservative campaign, starts like this:

“WELLAND, Ont. — The blame game has begun in earnest among some senior Conservatives, as interpersonal rivalries bubble away below the surface and longtime stalwarts worry about the state of the campaign.” 

A spate of polls are slated to be released in the next week, and this will likely exacerbate the CPC campaign woes. However, it’s important to remember Harper is used to hostile press and low expectations, and the campaign is only half over. Or as the Monty Python crew put it so brilliantly in the Holy Grail, the CPC is “not dead yet“.


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