The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Paper, Scissors, Rock---The story of 3 campaigns in Winnipeg North

Given the pathetic voter turnout in Winnipeg North (30.8 percent), the outcome hardly matters--- unless you're the unpopular, uncharismatic, unelected Premier facing his own election next year.

More interesting was how strikingly different the byelection campaigns were. It makes you wonder if the parties were using the byelection as a testing ground for the federal general election that's likely to come sooner rather than later.


The NDP went retro. They deluged households with election pamphlets introducing, promoting, endorsing, and championing their candidate Kevin Chief. Voters couldn't open their mailboxes without finding yet another glossy, full-colour election flyer for Chief. Recycling boxes groaned under the never-ending supply.
Chief's campaign started well before the byelection was even called, overlapped the civic election, and went into overdrive in November.

If anyone collected all the paper the NDP churned out they would have a fat book filled with photos of Chief with his family, Chief with Lloyd Axworthy (backstabbing his fellow Liberal Kevin Lamoureux), and Chief with Judy Wasylycia-Leis who held Winnipeg North for the NDP before resigning to run a failed campaign for mayor.

And when it was all over, there was more paper---Kleenex to daub the tears from the eyes of NDP supporters at losing the seat they held for 14 years.

It was the cutting edge of campaigns. The future, for sure. It should send a chill down the backs of NDP and Conservative campaign managers.

Did it win the riding for Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux? Hell, no. He won by his own popularity through years as an MLA for the area. But riding to Ottawa on tomorrow's technology is so cool.

The highlight was the virtual town hall. Residents of Winnipeg North got a phone call from the Liberal campaign inviting them to participate in a town hall discussion with Kevin and Michael Ignatieff. They were given a phone number they could call to plug into the event at the scheduled hour. If they phoned, they could hear the Q&A, and ask their own questions, all without leaving the comfort of their own homes.

Expect the Liberal Party of Canada to hold these virtual town halls in every riding in the country during the next federal election. Press 1 to go Wow.

A rock is featureless and inanimate. It requires outside force to propel it forward.

Yep. That pretty much describes the Conservative campaign in Winnipeg North.

Start with an unknown candidate who can't speak English and who avoids the press and the public like the plague. Then aggravate the voters with a never-ending barrage of automated phone calls from complete strangers and/or Conservative cabinet members in Ottawa who have no connection with Winnipeg North but who endorse the Conservative candidate.

Two, three, four calls a day. Hi, I'm Blahdey Blah and I encourage you to vote for Whatserrname.

If the NDP went retro, and the Liberals went techno, the Conservatives went nutso. May we never, ever, ever again see the use of robo-calls.

The local pundits assured us they had it all figured out. The Conservatives were, they said, running a Filipino woman to draw Filipino voters away from Kevin Lamoureux so the NDP could win the seat.

Somebody get their names so that nobody ever calls on these pundits again, please.

The Conservative's won't admit it, but they had to be running a campaign that would deliberately drive voters to the Liberals.

There's no way they could run a campaign this bad and expect anyone to vote for them. If we're wrong, the Conservatives need to take an axe to their re-election team today. Or introduce drug-testing.

The biggest casualty of the byelection was unelected Premier Greg Selinger. For the second time in as many months, he's watched the NDP ship go down despite his best efforts.

Judy Alphabet, the Left's champion in the race for mayor, got trounced in October by incumbent Sam Katz who walked away with a win by double digits. And her chosen successor, Kevin Chief, saw 7500 NDP voters stay home on election night, throwing the win to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux.

If the NDP can't get their vote out in Winnipeg North, what's their prospect in the October, 2011 provincial election?

Of course, NDP stalwart Ross Eadie did win the city council seat in Mynarski --- after confessing the NDP was helping fund his campaign in breach of their election financing law.

But then the NDP broke the law to win the 1999 provincial election, then covered it up for six years. So there's always hope.

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