Reluctant Half-Truth – The New Liberal Election Strategy
There are five byelections being held in Ontario and while election fever hasn’t gripped the province’s voters, the minority Liberal government has pulled out all the stops in an attempt to win them. Even the media seem somewhat disinterested which I find surprising considering the fact that the Liberals are field-testing a significant change in their usual election campaign strategy.
Typically, the Liberals approach elections much like a lot of folks approach Christmas. They hand out goodies all paid for on credit which means, of course, they aren’t paid for at all but will be – by us – at some point in the not too distant future. It’s kind of like having your parents get you to pay in January for the gifts they gave you Christmas morning.
Nonetheless, it’s a strategy that has worked time and time again for the Liberals because – well – a lot of folks have short memories and a lot of other folks are easily dazzled by a few handouts; NDP Leader Andrea Horvath being one of them.
Ms Horvath propped up what was arguably the most corrupt government in Canadian history because the new Liberal Premier promised to reduce car insurance premiums. Of course, while she was making that promise, car insurance premiums were quietly raised so that they could be reduced later after she and Ms Horvath cut a deal. In Ms Horvath’s defense, I believe she doesn’t get into the city much and was probably dazzled by the bright lights and slick big-city talk from the Liberals.
The Liberals have already promised a pile of dough for transit infrastructure in Toronto although the exact nature of the transit and the actual amount of cash, have yet to be determined. That’s the kind of campaign promise Liberals love; generously vague or is it vaguely generous? I always get those two mixed up. They’ve also done a 180 turn on their education compensation policy; handing out raises and bonuses to the very unions they hammered ten months ago for salary freezes.
I believe, despite the scandals of the past nine years, the economic mismanagement, the lies, the deceit and the unbelievably muddled thinking, throwing coins (there ain’t no dollars left) from the campaign bus was probably all that was required to win those five byelections. It is Ontario, after all, where the electorate has a delightfully masochistic tendency. They love to be spanked by the Liberals as long as long as sweet words are whispered in their ears as their bottoms are reddened. (Don’t visualize – this is “G” rated site)
But – and it’s a fairly big but – the Liberals have added a rather significant wrinkle to their campaign strategy and while it is both innovative and intriguing, I’m curious as to how it’s going to work for them.
It’s called the Reluctant Half-Truth strategy or as I call it: “We really don’t have a clue”, It’s an interesting spin on integrity where instead of admitting how badly or dishonestly they handled things, the Liberals step right up and proudly admit that they didn’t know what was going on around them under their watch and so they are only responsible for being as naive and trusting as Anderea Horvath. Here’ how it’s played. Pay close attention because it’s a bit complex.
Whenever a Liberal politician gets nailed with a tough question, the new responses are things like:
- I don’t know, didn’t know, got some of it right, it’s not my fault
- I wasn’t aware of that because I wasn’t in the loop
- I didn’t read the document before I signed off on it
- I didn’t know what my staff were doing – I can’t be expected to manage my staff
You get the idea. Instead of taking responsibility for screwing things up which no politician will ever do, the Liberals have come up with a strategy of “take responsibility for not knowing enough to avoid screwing up.” It’s sort of the appearance of taking responsibility without actually going through the messy business of actually holding yourself accountable.
It’s a nice twist from the same people who brought the province downgrades to the provincial credit rating while referring to it as economic growth, the Green Energy Act which has put the province in the somewhat unique position of paying other jurisdictions to take the surplus energy it produces and, of course, an unemployment level that makes the Atlantic provinces appear to actually be enjoying boom times.
Here are a couple of examples to illustrate how the new election strategy works.
When questioned about the outrageously high cost of cancelling two power plants during last year’s election, the Liberal response has been, “We didn’t know it would cost that much.” Personally, I would have thought that knowing what it would cost might have been a handy piece of information to have before making the decision but I’ve been wrong before.
When questioned about the Ornge Helicopter Ambulance fiasco, the response was, “We didn’t know what the management of Ornge was doing.” In fact, they still don’t even though the police are now investigating. They’ve also used, “We trusted them,” which not only underscores again that the Liberals were not aware of the issues but casts them as victims of a nefarious group of business folks.
It’s always good when you can make a single strategy provide a double benefit. It’s kind of like ordering a double-double at Tim Horton’s.
When questioned on what she knew about the cancellation of the gas plants, new Premier Kathleen Wynne who was campaign co-chair when the decision was made last election replied, “I wasn’t aware of that decision because I wasn’t in the loop.”
Apparently being one of the election campaign chairs is no guarantee that those working on the campaign are going to keep you informed or follow your direction. The good Premier’s position may become more precarious now that some 1200 emails have become available on a Semantic back-up tape, which connect the Premier to the former decision in some way. On the bright side, this could mean that not only was she out of the loop on the decision to cancel the gas plants but was actually unaware that she was originally aware of the decision when it was made.
Well played Premier Wynne. Well played! That’s so confusing nobody will figure it out.
Recently, Education Minister Elizabeth Sandals admitted that she had not read the controversial sex-ed curriculum for elementary schools before she signed off on it because as she put it, “Nobody expects me to read things before I approve them.” I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms Sandals expects students to read exam questions before answering the questions and submitting it for review but I confess that was somewhat impertinent and perhaps unnecessary of me.
I really do need to learn to be more tolerant.
There are many other examples of this new strategy which the Liberals seem to think will resonate with voters believing that they will be admired and respected for their almost candor and honesty. I’m not sure myself because the strategy seems somewhat hastily put together and only reluctantly implemented — but to be fair, not having much experience with candor and honesty, it’s not surprising that the Liberals are not very good at it.
Even if they came to this strategy somewhat reluctantly, I give them full marks for trying although I do wonder if standing up and publicly saying that you didn’t have a clue about what was going on when you were in charge is much of a recommendation for reelection no matter how true it might be. It seems to me that it’s sort of like admitting you robbed the bank but expect the jury to applaud your honesty and send you on your way.
But like I said, I’ve been wrong before although not as often as the majority of voters in Ontario who keep going back for another spanking from the same folks that slapped their bottoms red after the previous election.
So maybe this new strategy will work. After all, the Liberals have already used up just about all of the lies that were available and there isn’t any new money with which to offer things to buy votes. Quite frankly they don’t have many other options open to them so they might just as well give almost telling the truth a shot. If it works, you can be sure political parties across North America will be quick to adapt Reluctant Half-Truth as part of their future campaign strategies too.
It’s pretty tough when a political party has nothing left to offer except the truth and full marks to the Liberal Party of Ontario for figuring out a way to almost tell that truth over the past few months.
By their own admission, they didn’t have a clue about what was going on – pretty much anywhere under their watch – and it takes big people to stand up and not only admit that publicly but ask for your vote at the same time.
You’d be pretty insensitive not to admire that but then you’d also be a bloody idiot if you voted for it.
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