An Election Pre-Mortem
It's all over but the counting. Why wait a week when you can read the post mortem of the 2007 election campaign here and now.
The NDP were running scared for the entire campaign, never more so than the final week. They knew they would have to fight an uphill battle and they loaded up with every dirty trick in the book.
The health care system is a shambles with doctor shortages, nurse shortages, annual emergency ward closures, rampant hallway medicine, deaths in emergency rooms, deaths on waiting lists, and a bureaucracy growing larger by the second. Kildonan candidate Dave Chomiak carries the stench of failure with him wherever he goes.
The justice system is a nightmare. Candidates Doug Martindale (Burrows), George Hickes (Point Douglas) and Gord Mackintosh (St. Johns) wear the blood of Phil Haiart, Thomas Roy Phillips, and Rachelle Leost on their hands. The title of Gang Capital of Canada, Murder Capital of Canada and Car Theft Capital of Canada are the NDP's legacy for Winnipeg.
The government coverup of the Crocus Fund scandal was laid open by leaks of cabinet documents that had been hidden from the Auditor General's investigation.
The new documents exposed the government manipulation of the Auditor General's office to hide the secret cooperation between the Crocus fund and the Finance Department -- as innocent investors were duped into buying overvalued shares.
The NDP could be defeated on any one of these issues. They expected an all-out assault on all three fronts and had to prepare accordingly.
The campaign would be as short as permitted by law, with the vote on the Tuesday after the Victoria Day long weekend.
Campaigning would effectively stop three days earlier on the Friday as nobody would be thinking politics over the first long weekend of the summer.
If the only election poll of the campaign ran on the Friday or Saturday, showing a close race or the NDP ahead, it would be too late to undo the damage to the Tory campaign.Gary Doer conducted an under-the-radar campaign.
No grand promises (especially not to eliminate hallway medicine in six months). More police, more firemen, more nurses, more doctors, more this and more that, but nothing controversial or challenging or even exciting. Steady as she goes and go slowly. Save your energies for the attacks to come. Leave the in-fighting to your allies:
* The Winnipeg Free Press published an eight-page re-imagination of the collapse of the Crocus Fund as a preemptive strike against the day when Crocus became an election issue.
* The nurses union aired weeks of advocacy ads to defend against attacks on the NDP's health care failures.
Imagine their surprise, then, when the attacks never came. The NDP spent weeks counterpunching at punches never thrown. They even went into high gear in the last week of the campaign, running their own television attack ads straight from the gutter.
And for good measure they dredged actor Sharon Bajer out of the shadows in a series of unfunny, Grade Z-production commercials mocking the Tories. (Bajer was last spotted in NDP testimonial ads in 1999 weeping about how she would have to leave Manitoba if the Tories got elected.
Note to the NDP: For a party that professes to value womens' roles in politics, why do you segregate them into a womens caucus and then highlight only Crybaby Erin Selby and Crybaby Sharon Bajer? Just asking - ed)
P.C. leader Hugh McFadyen had been taunting the NDP for months to call an election. His reputation was as a skilled election backroomer who had gotten Gary Filmon and Sam Katz into office. That should have been a clue.
As The Black Rod has revealed, Sam Katz's credibility as a self-professed crimefighter melted faster than a slurpee in August the first time it was put to the test. It turns out he only mobilizes police resources when he has to impress his South End friends. The rest of the city gets a map on the internet with a star whenever their cars are stolen or their friends are killed.
Hugh McFadyen was Katz's right hand man before going provincial and it shows.
After being elected Tory leader McFadyen promised to give people a distinct choice in the next election, a choice based on harnessing the economy to make Manitoba a 'have' province. And that was the last we heard about that.
When the election of '07 was called, McFadyen leaped out of the starting gate with bold promises of----more bicycle paths and soccer pitches. Week One down, four to go.
The Crocus Scandal which dominated weeks of Question Period? Never mentioned.
The desperate situation in health care that's evident to anyone who's been in a hospital or tried to see a doctor in the past four years? Not an issue.
Taxes? A promise to cut the provincial sales tax one percentage point sailed over the heads of voters who were busy enjoying the sunshine, working in their yards, and shopping for summer clothes.McFadyen adopted the federal Liberal campaign style of a promise a day and every one of them a priority.
Crime? The Tories ran ads attacking revolving door justice in the province. They were hokey, but grew on you with repeated viewing. And began to resonate when Rachelle Leost was killed by a stolen car whose occupants included a convicted car thief breaching probation.
But when asked on CJOB in week two of the campaign to tell the thousands of listeners about his crime agenda, McFadyen announced--- he would be making an annoucement later.
And when it came it showed only that the Tories had overthought the issue, losing the common-sense approach the voters expected.
The Tories had a literal flood of anti-crime proposals which ranged from the impracticle to the implausible to the impossible. The NDP were reduced to blaming their failure on the crime file on the federal government, especially the new Youth Justice Act.
They could never actually bring themselves to utter the words Jean Chretien, Paul Martin or Liberal, the parties responsible for the tepid laws that tied the hands of judges and prosecutors.
And it took weeks to get Gary Doer to say, ever so reluctantly, that federal NDP MP's like Pat Martin and Judy Wasylycia-Leis shared the blame for supporting the federal laws that put more criminals of the streets.
But McFadyen never once blamed the Liberal Party for the very laws he was attacking, in keeping with his long-term plan to turn the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party into a federal Liberal farm-team. His credibility in crimefighting began to rival Sam Katz's.
Then came the infamous Winnipeg Jets announcement. As explained in The Black Rod (http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2007/05/hughie-hughie-and-je-eh-ehts.html), this should have been the defining vision of the Tory campaign - a dare-to-dream challenge to Manitobans with a promise of a vital new government leading them into a bright new future.
Unveilled properly in the first week of a campaign, the Tories could have built on it over four weeks, creating a clearly defined choice for voters. A heavy-handed, scandal-ridden, union and bureaucracy-choked party on one side versus a shiny new party of hope and youthful drive and energy on the other.
Instead, the vision was so poorly communicated that it was reduced in the news stories to "Bring Back the Jets."
A hurricane of derision followed.
Gary Doer, already campaigning in as low a key as possible for a party leader, seized the moment to go lower still. The NDP shut down planned leaders "debates", events which themselves have become nothing more than watered down serial question sessions. But the NDP didn't want to run even that risk of stirring up an issue.
They agreed to a "debate" on radio.
The broadcast fell somewhere between the Louis-Schmeling fights and Roosevelt's fireside chats. More toward the latter.
Liberal leader Jon Gerrard had the best lines.
Doer was himself.
And McFadyen came across like a lawyer giving a lecture on tax law. He may have made some points, but his own words fell asleep and fell to the bottom of the radio.
A traditional leaders forum co-sponsored by the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce and the Winnipeg Realtors fell apart when the NDP insisted on controlling the questions to be asked. The Chamber pulled out as a sponsor and Winnipeg Sun reporter Tom Brodbeck quit as a questioner. A quickly revamped version was shown on the community access channel.
Oh, yes, we know there's been no mention of the Liberals. They've been busy sacrificing goats to the Election Gods and praying to steal two more seats so they can be an officially recognized party for the first time in 12 years. OOOOOWWWWMMMMMM.
In summary, then:
The NDP avoided the issues and tied their fortunes entirely to Gary Doer's popularity in the province.
The Tories didn't land a punch and went into the vote with no momentum. If we were sitting at ringside we would be wondering if new leader Hugh McFadyen was taking a dive. Do they do pee tests on politicians?
Success would depend completely on individual races, the wild card of angry Crocus voters, and the number of votes cast.
How does it turn out?
The answer - tomorrow.