Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Conservative Strength, Liberal Weakness

(Abstract) The Conservatives chose to make this election about leadership for a reason, because making an election not about the issues and instead about their leader who can give the easily digested sound bytes, is making it an election they can win. That strategy is based on the Conservatives strengths, not the Liberals. The Liberal Party can not continue to fight an election with another party's strategy.

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The Conservative Party of Canada has launched various attacks on Stephane Dion, in an attempt to make this election about leadership. These attacks have been blasted through every type of media, television, radio, and internet, all to frame this election around Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion. For the Conservatives this strategy is quite advantageous, not only because this detracts from the issues, but because Stephane Dion is not the politician Stephen Harper is. For the same reasons, the Liberals in defending against and implementing a similar strategy are in a disadvantage. The Liberal Party instead should focus on its strengths, such as its progressive platform as well as its extensive leadership team of Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, and Martha Hall Findley.

For months the Conservatives have set their aim on Stephane Dion, using various ads labeling him "Not A Leader," making leadership an early and, essentially, a primary focus. These attacks have continued throughout the early days of this general election and to the Conservatives credit have accomplished two complimentary goals.

The first is that in questioning Stephane Dion as a leader, the issues are ignored. In attacking Stephane Dion, they take no other position then Stephane Dion is not a leader. Leaving out any possible controversial position they may take on abortion, Afghanistan, the death penalty, the imprisonment of Omar Khadr, health care, the environment, crime and justice, and the economy. The focus on leadership, instead of addressing the issues, leaves Canadians unable to form a substantial opinion on the Conservative Party and in attacking the Liberals, leaves the Conservatives as the de facto last real national option. Indeed the last tag line of recent Conservative ads embodies this "de facto" point exactly, as they flatly stress "We're Better Off With Harper."

The second goal the Conservatives achieved in framing the debate around leadership is that in pitting Harper versus Dion in this world of sound bytes and photo-ops, the more savvy Harper is made the inevitable winner. This is not to demean or discredit Stephane Dion, but to highlight that Dion has different strengths then Harper. If this strategy is allowed to continue it will continue to benefit the Conservatives over the Liberals.

This election strategy from the Conservatives has achieved those two goals, elevating the Conservatives up in the polls and producing a weak public image of Dion. The Liberals have done barely anything to combat the Conservative strategy and have instead adopted a similar strategy, and in doing so, are fighting this election on the Conservative Party's strengths and not the Liberals.

This leadership-strategy has produced a new Liberal.ca which no longer contains a substantial amount of information on various issues, instead it has limited policy to two short pages on the economy and the green shift. Gone are the pages and pages concerning social issues and other important causes, not to mention a library of information on the Liberal Party and its history among other important documents. In this distancing from the issues, the Liberals have left substance out of any debate with the Conservatives and thus leaves leadership as the primary focus.

The new site of ThisIsDion.ca perpetuates this focus on leadership and in resembling a defensive strategy achieves little or no effect. This website contains personal video and information on the Liberal leader, and though compelling, it must be admitted and acknowledged Stephane Dion's strength is not easily conveyed in a matter of mere moments. In this instance the strategy of focusing on leadership is shown to be at the very least not beneficial to the Liberal Party.

The Conservatives chose to make this election about leadership for a reason, because making an election not about the issues and instead about their leader who can give the easily digested sound bytes, is making it an election they can win. That strategy is based on the Conservatives strengths, not the Liberals. The Liberal Party can not continue to fight an election with another party's strategy.

The strategy the Liberals must adopt is to fight this election on their strengths, on the issues. We are party that represents all Canadians on all issues. The Liberal Party will win every time when its the issues that matter.

The Liberals must not fight on Dion alone, but on Dion and the team of goliaths behind him. The Conservatives don't have anything that comes close to the team of Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, and Martha Hall Findley. At the leadership convention there was one phrase which echoed from day one, it should no longer be but an echo, instead a shout, a shout for a change in how the Liberal Party is fighting this election, a shout of tous ensemble.

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