Opinion

Please Advise! 'Wizard from Oz' Ready to Drag Canada's Election Down Under

Tyee's spin doctor gleefully meets his match with Harper's latest hire.

By Steve Burgess 14 Sep 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

I have just been brought in as the new advisor to the Conservative campaign. I'm new to this scene, having previously worked my magic in Australia and Britain. Any professional advice for me?

Yours in spin,

Lynton Crosby

Dear Mr. Crosby,

Welcome to Canada. It's a big assignment you've taken on in a strange new territory. Will your job experience in Australia and the U.K. apply here? Even the water in the sink spins in a different direction in Oz. Sometimes a new land presents insurmountable challenges for a political operative. One thinks of Che Guevara in Bolivia.

I really didn't expect the Conservatives to bring in outside talent. Actually I was pretty sure the Harper campaign would recall Nigel Wright. The way things are going right now, what Team Harper needs most is someone to blame. Wright's been their go-to guy for that.

Still, I'm envious. As a spin doctor it must be great to be referred to as the "Wizard from Oz." That's what we are, all right. If our profession has a motto, it is "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" However, as amply detailed by David Beers in this very publication, you have inspired less flattering monikers such as "Lizard of Oz," "an Australian Rottweiler," and "the Aussie Karl Rove." Considering that George W. Bush's pet name for Rove was "Turd Blossom," I suppose we should adjust our expectations accordingly.

As the new guy in charge of the Harper campaign you should probably prepare yourself to hear a lot of "captain of the Titanic" metaphors. Which really isn't fair. The whole Titanic shtick doesn't fit very well with Canadian politics. Imagine Leonardo DiCaprio in the prow of the ship, shouting "I'm the prime minister of Canada!" You might as well shout, "I'm the chairman of the local school board!" Kate Winslet would have announced she had a headache and sneaked back to her cabin.

The basic point is true though. You are taking the helm of an operation that has lately been making Rick Perry look like a political superstar by comparison. Can you turn things around with your dark Aussie magic? Do koalas turn vicious without warning? Did Crocodile Dundee have an answer for knife-wielding Black Guy #2?

Ford Nation rerun?

It's been suggested that the Conservative response to the refugee crisis has been out of step with the attitude of Canadians. But you and I both know that's not entirely true. There is always plenty of fear and prejudice out there waiting to be tapped. When it comes to the Conservative electoral agenda, "trolling for votes" takes on a literal meaning. Once upon a time in speaking to a war-torn nation Abraham Lincoln appealed to "the better angels of our nature." Your mission, Mr. Crosby, will be to track down the Canadian counterparts of those angels and bring them down with buckshot.

South of the border Donald Trump is a political shooting star, and he gains altitude every time he refers to immigrants as the scum of the Earth. Anyone who thinks a Trump-style persona cannot play in Canada must have a memory that does not stretch back as far as Rob Ford. You don't need a new Star Wars movie to know that that the Dark Side has not been vanquished.

Positive campaigning always reminds me of those all-natural, lavender-and-rosemary insect repellents -- pleasant but largely ineffective. As the nights grow longer and the weather cools there's still plenty of time for the Canadian mood to fall in step with the seasonal trends. A gloomy October would be like free advertising for your team.

Yes, it's a challenge. But your opponents are divided. I have faith you can still drag this election Down Under. A giant wall on the Canada/Syria border; a strong attack on Justin Trudeau's plan to put marijuana in every schoolchild's lunch box; a chilling ad highlighting the average fecal count in a typical beard.

There's a solid month left. With a little help from Australia, we can make Canada great again.  [Tyee]

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