Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Campbell sets out on a carefully dull campaign

VICTORIA - Get ready for an impressively boring campaign from Gordon Campbell and the Liberals.
Campbell made the obligatory trip to Government House, the swell residence of lieutenant governors in B.C., to ask Iona Campagnolo to dissolve the legislature and allow an election.
Fortunately for all concerned, she agreed, allowing Campbell to make his way to a red-carpeted room on a lower floor and briefly face the assembled press.
Nothing he said was surprising, which is pretty much what you can expect for the next four weeks. The Liberals have a significant lead, and - for better and worse - most voters have formed their opinions of Campbell and the party. If the Liberals can maintain their current support, then they'll win another large majority. So their focus will be on avoiding mistakes and surprises, and keeping the NDP on the defensive.
Campbell sounded four themes.
First, the Liberals' plan has worked, and a stronger economy is benefiting people across the province and allowing more spending on health care and education.
Second, despite some broken promises - like the BC Rail sale, and gambling expansion, and the missing long-term care beds - the Liberals can be trusted. "We're building trust by actually delivering on 90 per cent of the commitments we made in 2001," he said.
Third, that the New Democrats can't be trusted, despite any claims that the Carole James might make about a new direction for the party. "They've tried to run a very low-key, under-the-radar campaign," Campbell said. "They're running an attack campaign and they're trying to keep it under the radar." The NDP hopes to sneak into office, and then would take B.C. back to the bad old days of the '90s, he said - and will say again and again over the next four weeks.
And fourth, that given another term the Liberals will make big progress in areas that are important to British Columbians.
It's a pretty simple set of messages, and the Liberals will stick to them. The campaign is tightly scripted, and being managed to avoid all chance of disruption or surprise. (Reporters climbing on the campaign bus after a rally in Victoria Tuesday weren't being told where the tour was heading the next day, the better to make sure no troublesome unscripted moments occur.)
At the same time, the LIberal staff will be working hard to bump the NDP campaign off track. Campbell took a shot at James for reshuffling some of the financial numbers in the party platform, which had included a pledge to take some of the money from the LIberals' election slush fund and re-allocate it to health care.
Aha, the Liberals quickly said, that money is going for rinks and arenas and other good things. The New Democrats reversed their plan.
Same old New Democrats, said Campbell. "It has taken the NDP less than a week to start eating into their fiscal forecasts."
Except no one knew where the slush fund was being spent, because the government wouldn't say - until the NDP platform came out, and openness became politically expedient.
Expect the Liberals to pounce on real or imagined gaffes, contradictions or blunders by NDP candidates over the next four weeks, both to raise concerns about James and bump the New Democrats off their own plan.
Trust, for most swing voters, is probably the most important issue. They aren't going to have the time, or inclination, to delve deeply into the parties' positions on a bunch of issues. A large part of their final decision will be based on an assessment of who will make the best decisions over the next four years as issue arise. On who they can trust.
The NDP needs, and probably has the opportunity, to make gains over the next four weeks. The Liberals just have to hang on to the support they have.
And that should make for a cautious, guarded campaign from Campbell.
Footnote: The Liberal effort to avoid mistakes is already taking at least one risky form, as the party's representatives avoid debates or discussions that include New Democrats. It's safe, but the Liberals risk looking afraid to defend their policies or plans in front of the public.


Anonymous said...

gord will try to do nothing but attack the ndp in this campaign. in this way he will hope to limit the number of liberal promises (lies), and avoid close scrutiny of policies which are generally misleading.

i believe the media should adopt the role of devil's advocate at times when political opposition is weak and/or inneffective.

gord has spent tax$ to flamboyantly announce spending of tax $, flagrantly campaigning before the allowed date, in order to have tax $ pay for liberal party expenses.

gord has plenty of tax $ for everyone - save the poor, the aged, the infirm, and those otherwise handicapped. he has taken from, and continues to take from these groups.

the ombudsman is currently investigating what amounts to thousands of complaints against the ministry of human resourses for systemic unfairness, including acting outside legal boundaries, and ignoring mhr policy manuals.

these complaints have been ignored for years, or the ombudsman would never bee involved.

this is typical behavior of a mean spirited bully, and the media should be reporting this, and asking every lberal caucus member why they have all signed off on this behavior.

they should publish the results daily, until the election.

the same scrutiny should be made of all candidates.

calgarygrit said...

Campbell's in front so he'll play it safe. Carole James isn't well know so the less media buzz they can get around the campaign, the less chance voters have to know her.

But for the NDP, finishing within 10% and upping their seat count substantially will still be considered a major gain.