Breaking away from the pack: strategists on what party leaders may have to do

With polls showing a statistical tie between the three main federal party leaders, party strategists join Tom Clark on The West Block to discuss what each party leader has to do to break away from the pack.

With polls showing a statistical tie between the three main federal parties, three political strategists joined Tom Clark on The West Block to discuss what NDP leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Stephen Harper can do to break away from the pack.

“This is what people on campaign buses talk about all day long,” noted strategist Rick Anderson.

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“I think Mr. Trudeau is doing what he’s chosen to do already on that score which is to cast himself the more progressive of the alternatives, basically by advocating deficit spending. Mr. Mulcair has done it by making himself – trying to make himself – the less risky of the change candidates, and Mr. Harper is doing it by saying we don’t need as much change as these people are saying, that’s the risk. We’ve got a pretty good economy, let’s make it better but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

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Former Liberal staffer Lindsay Doyle argued that Mulcair needs to play to his regional strengths in British Columbia and Quebec, and probably should have waited a bit longer to release the pricing of the NDP platform.

“It opened him up to too much criticism which I think was disappointing for the NDP when it came to the economy debate on Thursday,” she said.

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Robin Sears, who was an NDP strategist for 20 years, argued that all three leaders are suffering from a more basic problem.

“They’re each trying to minimize negative rather than enhance positive,” Sears said. “A minimizing-negative approach to projection of yourself is always a bit of a disappointment for the viewer because you’re not getting any passion or excitement.”

The panel also tackled the debate formats in this election campaign, with Sears pointing out that a new television consortium is probably needed in light of the limited viewership attached to the debates hosted by Maclean’s magazine and The Globe and Mail.

“I do think this campaign will have served one very valuable purpose. The consortium is dead and a new consortium will rise from the ashes next time because what we did this time ain’t working so good.”