Reading the entrails

The provincial New Democrats' response to environmental criticism of their election platform represents the party's first failure of the campaign. Here's what happened: yesterday morning, at 10:00, the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics and The Pembina Institute panned that platform during a media briefing at the Hotel Grand Pacific, specifically criticizing the party's promise to cancel the carbon tax. Reporters asked New Democrat leader Carole James about that criticism following the 11:00 opening of her constituency campaign office. But, at that time, the party seemed unaware only three environmental organizations were at that briefing - a fraction of the 16 groups that had supported the Campbell administration's carbon tax last year.

As a result, Ms. James's first response was say, "We certainly agree to disagree with the environmental movement around the government's carbon tax" - inadvertently attaching the organizations' criticisms to the movement as a whole.

By 1:25, it had become apparent that wasn't the case, with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee's Joy Foy being the first to speak out after being contacted by Public Eye. The Sierra Club of BC's George Heyman made a similar statement a number of hours later. But, by day's end, the New Democrats had yet to publicize those nuances nor had they rolled out any third party validators to support their platform.

Of course, this isn't the first time the New Democrats have suffered from a lack of situational awareness and rapid response capability. Last month, Ms. James told reporters she only found out about Mable Elmore controversial comments concerning "vocal Zionists" the day after Ms. Elmore was nominated as the party's candidate in Vancouver-Kensington. This, despite the fact those comments had made headlines four years earlier.

1 Comment

It's fascinating how quickly the developments of this story came out. Unlike the lightning fast pace of the Federal political world, I don't think our provincial parties are so used to having to respond so quick to daily crisis.

The NDP definitely needs to do a major overhaul of their communication strategy. For crying out loud, the Conservatives give all their MP's Blackberry's which are set to respond to any news development within minutes of it happening. This ability to limit unpredictable factors and enforce message discipline has contributed greatly to their relative lack of caucus controversy, especially when you consider the factions which exist within the Conservative caucus.

It's amazing how quickly campaigns need to adapt in order to succeed. When Kerry ran for President, a Bush strategist took an embarassing quote he said to a reporter on an airport tarmac and had an ad made and released by the time Kerry got off the plane. Not knowing what was going on, Kerry set himself up for another trap, and later said the famous "I voted for the war before I voted against it." line. I imagine things have only gotten better since then.

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