Tories targeting Ottawa-Centre

I live in downtown Ottawa in the riding of Ottawa-Centre. The riding itself is a special one as it is populated by the workers the keep the gears turning of the very government that all Canadians voters elect. My neighbours are staffers from each federal political party (Bloc staffers know the rent is cheaper in Gatineau), bureaucrats, journalists and you wouldn’t even know the riding has any NDP inclination until you find Bank st.

Despite this, Ottawa-Centre will be a battleground during the next federal election. In recent history, the riding has been held by all three political parties (the PCs won it in 1979). While the Conservative candidate Keith Fountain lost by some 9,000 votes during the last election, he and the Green Party candidate David Chernushenko were the two major candidates that were able to raise their respective parties’ vote share while Dipper Paul Dewar (the current MP) and then-Liberal candidate Richard Mahoney lost overall party vote share from the previous 2004 election.

For the Conservatives, the strategy to win this riding would require splitting the vote among NDP-Green voters and demoralizing/converting Liberal votes. The current nominee of the Conservative Party Brian McGarry has good name recognition in the riding as his family have been prominent small-business owners in the riding for some time. The combination of the right factors and McGarry’s candidacy may just allow the Tories to challenge and win in the riding.

A key strategic element of the Conservative push in this riding has been effective use of ten-percenters. Since January, I have received not one but six of these mailings from this House of Commons program.

The Liberals have been railing against the Conservatives for sending out these partisan (perish the thought!) mailings from their House of Commons research group. As a party in perpetual opposition, the NDP has been quietly onside with the Conservatives in sending out these mailings as opposition parties (such as Conservatives themselves and their legacy parties) have needed to innovate in order to get their message out since traditional mainstream channels tend to project and focus upon the government’s message (or information about the government) as that which is newsworthy.

As I’ve received six of these ten-percenters since January, I imagine that Ottawa Centre is a target riding. This is compounded by the fact that other MPs from other ridings are legally using their ten-percenter quota to blanket this riding with information about the Conservative government’s agenda.

I do think that the messaging could be even more specific and strategic in this riding. Conservative ten-percenters in Ottawa Centre should question the NDP’s commitment to the environment and rhetorically ask who will keep Canada along the proper environmental path. If the Conservatives are not going to get left wing votes in Ottawa Centre, they should make sure that these votes are going into the most advantageous column. To win the riding, Conservatives need to challenge the NDP and get their base to move green. To best the Liberal voting total in Ottawa Centre, Conservatives need to do as they are doing elsewhere in the country; an effective Conservative campaign will not so much win on converting ardent Liberal partisans but rather by demoralizing them and have them ponder why they should get and and vote for a so-called leader that will not stand in the House of Commons and vote for them.

Ottawa

As some of you may know, I’ve been living in Kingston for a few years now completing an undergraduate degree and now working on a graduate degree in biochemistry (yes, all at Queen’s — I didn’t want to rent a moving truck, I used to joke). Well now that I’m in the sweet spot of the graduate degree — data accumulation and committee work finished — I’m now just left with the last bit of the write-up.

In the closing months of 2006, I was given another reason to rent a truck; I was offered a job in Ottawa and in my chosen profession (and hobby). For those of you joining this game already in progress, the profession is science and the hobby, communications. I’ll be blogging about some of that later as I get the feel for what’s appropriate. I will say that I do remain outside of the employ of the Conservative Party and government of Canada.

I am a new arrival in this epicentre of Canadian politics and I hope that the blog will reflect my vicinity to the Hill.

For those of you whom I know in Ottawa, do send me an email so that we can catch up!

Belinda speech in Ottawa

I travelled to Ottawa from Kingston today to attend the Belinda Stronach speech at Chateau Laurier, one block east of parliament hill. I met conservatives of every type at the function; supporters of Stephen Harper, supporters of Tony Clement and of course mostly Belinda Stronach supporters.

I also met two guys with whom I went to Queen’s. Both are hill staffers and were out to see what all of this “Belindamania” talk is about.

Belinda Stronach’s speech was a great improvement from her launch speech that I saw just one week ago. She started out with an anecdote about her son’s advice before her launch that day. “Don’t trip” and she expressed proudly that she didn’t trip acknowledging that while she didn’t fall flat in her political debut, it wasn’t without its obstacles. Indeed, she acknowledged to the crowd of supporters tonight that “I’m not a professional prolecision…” to which the crowd cheered. Somewhat humbled she corrected herself, “I’m not a professional politician” to which the crowd cheered again. Belinda Stronach also declared her position on senate reform. Stronach believes that senators should be elected and that as prime minister she will discuss, with the premiers and the provinces/territories, what would consist of a fair balanced upper house. She reiterated her stance against the federal gun registry, which has cost this country over $1 Billion. This likely pleased Tory MP Bill Casey who started the website gunregistry.ca. The website is a critical look at the wasteful federal programme. As always, Stronach also restated her stance on creating a more competitive Canada through economic reform.

After Belinda Stronach’s speech she worked the room and was surrounded by a hoard of cameras and well-wishers. The mass of people seemed to have a life of it’s own as Stronach led it through the ballroom shaking hands with as many supporters as possible. I instead wandered around the less congested perimeter of the room and met some other students. We discussed our common enthusiasm about the Stronach campaign. Belinda then exited the room with her senior team.

After a speech comes a press conference so I spotted the open room where the cameras were setting up. I set myself up behind the bank of cameras, just behind the reporters and I stood with the boom-mic operators who were recording the reporters’ questions. Interesting, I found myself in the media scrum behind the stage. I actually could have asked a question myself!

CTV’s Roger Smith asked Belinda whether or not she was buying up all of the organizers in Quebec to which she answered that all of the campaigns have paid and unpaid volunteers and that the salary figure that Smith quoted was grossly exaggerated. Later on, Smith asked Stronach a somewhat cynical question “Have you ever heard any of Paul Martin’s speeches?” When Stronach ignored the question, Smith yelled back “Obviously not!” Bizarre… I thought that reporters were supposed to report the news instead of chide the candidates. Later on CTV Newsnet, I read the headline “Stronach takes hits over Quebec campaign”. It seems that while Belinda answered Smith’s question adequately, what is newsworthy to CTV is that Smith asked her the question and thought that he did some damage.

After the press conference, after most of the supporters and press had cleared out, I hung around and met some more of the campaign staff, most of whom are either slightly younger or slightly younger than me. The youth team on Belinda Stronach’s campaign is likely a key factor helping her take a fresh approach to the leadership race. I was chatting with Belinda’s press secretary when she asked, “Do you want to meet her?”.

So, I got to meet Belinda Stronach and we chatted for a little while and I got my photo-op. I thanked her for what she’s doing for youth involvement in federal politics. I also told her that we’re going to rally Queen’s around her campaign.

She also told me something very exciting and encouraging about Kingston and the Islands. But that will have to wait for another day…


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