But as the old saying goes, 'Mann tracht und Gott lacht' (It rhymes in Yiddish) or in plain English;
Man plans and God laughs.....
The campaign was perhaps the most bizarre I can remember, where absolutely nothing went according to plan, and where not one of the so-called pundits came anywhere close to getting the final results right.
Now everything looked bright for the PQ at the onset of the campaign, you couldn't really fault them for triggering an election with a couple of points lead in the polls over the Liberals and the CAQ lagging badly, its best showing in months. If those poll numbers held, it would mean a PQ majority government.
But the wheels fell of the PQ campaign bus soon after Pierre-Karl Péladeau entered the fray, swearing his separatist fervour and telling voters that he'd work to make Quebec independent, something nobody could have predicted would backfire so badly.
Perhaps it would be an interesting exercise for me to engage in a little self-important hubris and not so humbly present to you what I'll call the Editor's Golden Rules of Campaigning, rules that may seem cynical and perhaps, even counter-intuitive.
Nonetheless, I stand by them and so let's put them to the test;
Let's apply these rules to the campaign.
- It isn't what you don't say that gets you in trouble, it's what you do say...so say as little as possible.
- Negative is positive..... Find your opponent's weak spot and hammer away, but do it politely.
- Don't promise voters anything, they won't believe your lame promises anyways. That is UNLESS it is a new hockey arena or cement plant for their town. Local issues trump everything, so by all means, promise voters cement plants and hockey arenas, if you can deliver.
- Dress impeccably, always wear a suit and tie (or women's equivalent.) Remember that being overdressed is expected of leaders. Don't don construction helmets or hairnets, lab coats or any other such nonsense during factory visits. (Ask Gilles Duceppe about this rule....)
- Never let them see you sweat, never answer a tough question, never ad lib or improvise and never deviate from talking points, no matter how hard it is to do. Don't think too much, just follow the plan.
- Don't defend the indefensible. Never compound an error. Admit a mistake and move on.
- Don't be wrong on the facts and try not to look foolish. Reporters will destroy you for your mistakes. This is perhaps the hardest rule to follow
The Fist Pump Fiasco
Pierre-Karl Péladeau's entry into the fray was supposed to be a big boost for the PQ, everyone assumed that he would have a huge impact on the race and he certainly did, but not in the expected way.
This turning point in the campaign wasn't actually a PQ mistake, it didn't violate any of the above rules because it was supposed to be a key plank in the election, one that was supposed to be a positive momentum shifter in favour of the PQ.
It didn't work out, PKPs awkward fist pump and solemn pledge to work towards sovereignty went over like a lead balloon, but stunned PQ handlers were bowled over by the negative reaction and were clearly unable and unprepared to react.
And then Pauline made the worst mistake of the campaign;
“We could wish to have a seat at the Bank of Canada but we accept the fact it is the bank’s monetary policy that would apply,”Do you think that policy was crafted by PQ organizers before the campaign? I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the exact opposite is true and the policy was to steer clear of such a debate.
We’ll still be able to go see the Rockies out West and go to Prince Edward Island and they’ll be able to come here. There won’t be any borders or tolls.”
So in one fell swoop, Pauline violated four of the above rules and violated them so badly, she and the PQ never recovered;
Why bring to the debate the issue of sovereignty and referendums when the whole campaign was supposed to be based on good government and perhaps the Charter of Values? It was an amateur mistake of saying too much, way too much.
She made unrealistic promises about an independent Quebec that had her looking quite the buffoon.
She went off message, improvised and ad-libbed, made up policy on the fly and completely ignored the polished script prepared for her by organizers. She took and answered questions that she should have deflected and looked ill-at ease in doing so.
There are four constraints in Rule Five, she violated them all.
She compounded PKP's inadvertent error over sovereignty in defending what had become an indefensible position... the possibility of a referendum. Trying to appease everyone by promising a referendum only if Quebecers wanted one, satisfied no one and actually alienated everyone.
Instead of immediately making the decision to forcefully eliminate a referendum possibility, Pauline soldiered on down the path of destruction
Now errors occur in every campaign, they are inevitable. Candidates are bound to make mistakes and say the wrong things at a certain point. Imagine this type of error as standing on the middle rung of a very shaky ladder, you can choose to keep climbing up or choose to stand down.
Only the smartest and most disciplined make the right decision to come down off the ladder, Pauline kept climbing to the top and and like Humpty-Dumpty, had a great fall.
The Anglo Student Fiasco
The student fiasco occurred when an amateur and desperate campaign tried to seize on facts that were not facts, a clear violation of Rule Number Seven.... Don't be wrong on the facts.
|The three Musketeers, including the Justice Minister all get it embarrassingly wrong over 'dastardly' Ontario students|
Holding a news conference to alert voters to an imaginary invasion of hordes of evil anglo students, intent on stealing an election would be a brilliant campaign strategy if it were true, but a disaster if it wasn't true.
It wasn't true.....
And so the Justice Minister Bernard St. Arnaud, who should have known better then to open his mouth without a clear understanding of the facts, demonstrated his rank amateurism and clear desperation.
When the facts surfaced that in fact there was no such invasion, the PQ looked utterly foolish, something that contributed more than one might think, to the public perception that the PQ were not ready for prime time.
The Janette Fiasco
Janette Bertrand was supposed to be an asset who would inspire Quebecers of a certain age and temperament to rush over to the PQ in support of the Charter of Values. Capturing the older conservative demographic was key, because of its propensity of voting Liberal.
The strategy worked well before the campaign actually started, with a seeming groundswell of support for the old-time and popular TV personality speaking for the Charter of Values, inspiring a small movement of activists.
But at a PQ campaign event featuring a defence of the Charter of Values, Janette Bertrand made a speech in which she accused rich Muslim McGill students of attempting to take over, a speech which had Liberal opponants howling in laughter and PQ supporters grimacing in pain.
"Imagine, she said, two men come to a swimming pool in a Montreal apartment, and the sight of women in the water upsets them.As I said before, there's always going to be these 'gaffes' in any campaign but it was the reaction to Bertrand's fantasy story that was telling.
“Well, suppose they leave, and go see the owner,” said Bertrand, an 89-year-old former actress and journalist, emphasizing that the owner would be happy to have such “rich” McGill University students in the building.
“Then they ask, ‘Well, can we have a day,’ and they will pay… And then in a few months, it’s them who have all the pool time.”
“That’s what will happen if there is no charter.” Link
There was Bernard Drainville, standing stoically behind Madame Bertrand during her speech, nodding his head in support, instead of doing the perspicacious thing and grabbing the microphone away or failing that, slink out from the frame, thus perhaps disassociating himself from the fiasco and perhaps saving his own skin. But the stink rolled over him royally and he cemented the public's perception of him as an unrepentant ideologue.
But it was Pauline's impassioned defence of Bertrand's Muslims-in-the-pool missive, that clearly violated Rule Six, which reminds politicians not to defend the indefensible nor compound an error.
[Bertrand] spoke from her heart,” the Premier said. “She spoke of her commitment to a cause that has been close to her heart for 70 years, the equality of men and women.” -Pauline.
None of the opposition leaders were willing to attack a dotty old lady, but it was that defence of Bertrand that gave opposition parties the ammunition to dump all over Marois and dump they did.
Now consider Jean-François Lisée's reaction, a textbook lesson in how to diffuse a bad situation.
He smiled broadly and told reporters that perhaps Bertrand had 'senior moment' one that we should all perhaps forgive.
“My reaction was that this was not the best quote of the campaign, this was not the best argument for the charter.
But the woman is 89, so I’m going to cut her some slack.”Brilliant... Who's going to argue with that. Case closed!
Fire the Doctors Fiasco
There's nothing stupider than a throwaway candidate mucking up the works by making some inopportune statements that snowballs right into a fiasco of major proportions.
"Evelyne Abitbol shocked the crowd of scholars at Vanier College’s Charter debate by blurting out that doctors who would not comply in the given time to the Charter’s regulation could get fired – except those that work at the Jewish hospital. LinkThe PQ candidate made two grievous mistakes, the first showing up to a debate in an English cegep, an act as stupid as gun control advocate speaking at a NRA convention, especially considering that she hardly spoke English.
But no where in the PQ policy handbook is there a hypothetical provision for firing doctors or nurses who refuse to remove religious headwear, so thank you Ms. Abitbol for wading into shark-infested waters.
Once again Pauline violates Rule Six by defending the indefensible and confounding the error. In a radio interview over the subject, Marois jumped right into the quicksand, offering this nonsense.
“In the laws and regulations that we propose, it is possible to find alternate pathways. And at the end (transition years), it is possible we can admit or accept that there will be an extension.....We do not foresee and we do not want layoffs, she added. “We believe it is possible to find pathways to steer these people to other jobs that match their skills, because (the charter) does not touch the private sector,” Marois told Montreal radio station 98.5 FM. LinkReally... can that be helpful?
New Tax Breaks
People ask why I was so sure that the Liberals would win a majority government and I tell them it was Pauline's late promise of tax breaks, a move that even the most politically uninformed recognized as a desperate attempt to buy some love.
In fact the move was so nakedly desperate it could only have been precipitated by panic in the PQ ranks, where either internal polling indicated the coming meltdown or where candidates and organizers in the field were putting pressure up above in the face of voter abandonment.
Whatever the case, promising tax breaks is a clear violation of Rule Number Three. Voters aren't cynical, they just don't believe or care about these pie-in-the-sky promises.
Who of you out there believes that even one voter was swayed to change their vote over to the PQ over this lame-ass and patently ridiculous promise?
It's a sad litany of failure that should be compared to the Liberals error-free campaign.
I can hardly think of one Liberal gaffe, because Philippe Couillard kept his mouth shut on the issues and his head down over accusations of past corruption.
His one declaration, a not-so-veiled threat to Marois that if she flung dirt at him over corruption, he'd do the same over Pauline's hubby's alleged corrupt conduct, a threat she apparently took seriously.
Couillard promised almost nothing, but looked confident and handsome doing it. He avoided PQ attacks by doing a wildly successful version of political rope-a-dope.
And so, Pauline and the PQ delivered an abject lesson in how to lose an election. She isn't alone, both the Alberta and British Columbia elections unfolded exactly the same way, with both the highly-favoured Wildrose party losing in Alberta and the NDP in British Columbia, both running similarly deficient campaigns.
Let's review Couillard's and the Liberal party performance in relation to the above-mentioned rules.
Rule One- Keep you mouth shut..............., CHECK!
Rule Two- Go negative.............................. CHECK! (referendums and sovereignty)
Rule Three- Make no promises.................. CHECK!
Rule Four- Look Handsome...................... CHECK!
Rule Five- Keep to the plan........................CHECK!
Rule Six- Don't defend the indefensible.... CHECK! (there were no gaffes to defend....amazing!
Rule Seven- Be right on the facts.............. CHECK! (when you say nothing, it's hard to be wrong!)
Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up and that's exactly what the Liberals and Couillard did, they just showed up, smiled and did nothing more.
The political lesson to be had....Look smart and keep your head down and your mouth shut and then hope that the other guys do the opposite.
It happens more often than not..