During an election campaign, political parties are often faced with situations that could involve a few hiccups, some pitfalls, and even a major controversy or two.
The Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and others aren’t immune to this. What differentiates them is how they handle these situations. From the initial response to the tactical use of spin and deflection, political observers can gauge how well or poorly a party will do as a campaign wears on.
This year’s federal election has already presented several possible scenarios.
Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives had a good first week. They must keep emphasizing a polished, professional messaging style – and refrain from any further Willy Wonka ads.
Progressive parties like Jagmeet Singh’s NDP, Annamie Paul’s Greens and Yves-Francois Blanchet’s Bloc Quebecois have successfully manoeuvered Canada’s left-leaning vote to consider different political alternatives. They’re in a solid position to poke holes and capture more seats.
What about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals?
If they have a couple more weeks on the campaign hustings that resemble the party’s first week, their re-election bid could be in serious jeopardy.
They’re not off to a rousing start in week two.
This is due to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s unwise decision to circulate a video later determined to be manipulated and Trudeau’s strategy of doubling down on it.
On Aug. 22, Freeland (who is also deputy prime minister) circulated a tweet with the following description: “Canada’s public, universal health care system is one of our greatest strengths. It’s part of what makes us who we are as a country. Last year, as COVID-19 raged, Erin O’Toole was asked if he would bring private, “for-profit” healthcare to Canada. He responded unequivocally: yes.”
The tweet contained a short video of Summa Strategies Canada vice-chair Kate Harrison asking O’Toole about private health care on July 15, 2020. He does answer “Yes,” and goes on to mention that “we have to find public-private synergies. And that capital will come in to drive efficiencies.”
Harrison caught wind of Freeland’s circulated clip later on Aug. 22. She crafted a small Twitter thread that mentioned in part, “I’m disappointed to see the video was manipulated to exclude important context.” She then posted the video with O’Toole’s full response.
Immediately after O'Toole discussed public-private synergies, he said that when it comes to health care we need to “make sure that universal access remains paramount.” That’s rather different than what was contained in Freeland’s video.
The Conservative leader’s analysis of former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall’s plan for diagnostic imaging is also worth pointing out. “He’s actually making sure that wait times for everyone go down as a result of the investment of the private sector to make sure there are more diagnostic imaging machines,” O’Toole said. “I thought that was a brilliant move to show the public at large there’s going to be an overall benefit because everyone’s wait times will go down.”
Harrison was unimpressed with the “amateur cut and paste slapped together” for Freeland’s video. “Strikes me that the thoughtful, detailed platform put out by the CPC has the other side spooked, apparently to the point they’re being actively dishonest.”
It certainly seems like it.
Twitter wasn’t impressed. The company slapped a “manipulated media” label on Freeland’s tweet. Anyone who watches the video will see this embarrassing reference and hopefully realize the video should be ignored.
Trudeau was asked about this controversy the next day. He casually shrugged it off and actually claimed Freeland’s video was posted “in its entirety.”
As I tweeted, the total time of Freeland’s “manipulated clip” was 35 seconds – and O’Toole’s entire response was three minutes and 14 seconds.
Trudeau’s understanding of economics is highly suspect. He even recently said, “I don’t think about monetary policy,” which has been widely ridiculed. Nevertheless, his math skills should just be manageable enough to figure out which of the two videos is actually offered in its entirety.
Freeland hasn’t taken down the manipulated video. Another clip circulating where she briefly discusses it while campaigning is accessible, too.
While no one is suggesting the “Minister of Everything” had a hand in making this ridiculous video, why won’t she just apologize and remove it? That seems like the easiest way to end this controversy.
Then again, maybe the Liberals are going to deal with his election hiccup, pitfall and controversy rolled into one in the worst possible fashion.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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