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NDP Blew the Campaign

Party's slogans, and strategy, were incoherent. Learn from this.

By Bill Tieleman 19 May 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at www.cknw.com. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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NDP's multi-issue ad blitz didn't click.

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy. -- Sun Tzu, 544 - 496 B.C.

What was the New Democratic Party's strategy to defeat B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell?

How was it different from 2005? And why did it fail again?

These are the tough questions NDP MLAs, and activists must ask themselves immediately if they are to have any chance to win in 2013.

Several errors in its 2009 election efforts are already crystal clear.

Any party that uses not one, not two, but three main slogans in a 28-day campaign is in serious jeopardy.

Yet the NDP started off with the social work-sounding -- "Because Everyone Matters", then switched to the retro "Take Back Your B.C." -- at best, a call to return the province to the people.

It was an easy target for the right-wing Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the well-funded B.C. Liberal proxy enforcers, to run ads saying: "Yeah, way back!"

Then the final NDP campaign slogan: "Eight Years of Gordon Campbell Is Enough!"

And not content with three different slogans, the NDP also blended and merged them into other variants, like "Take Back Your B.C. Because Everyone Matters" or "Eight Years Is Enough -- Take Back Your B.C.!"

This was not a good sign for the campaign.

Too much negativity

Neither was the absence of a positive policy focus in the platform.

Ask voters and the two things they would probably cite as the key NDP promises were increasing the minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour and axing the carbon tax.

Both had positive appeal but neither had the salience to either mobilize potential NDP voters or change minds. And they were well-known positions months before the election.

Most disastrously, the NDP studiously ignored the number one issue on voters' minds -- the economy -- despite enormous available ammunition.

B.C. led the country in jobs losses in March with 23,000 and lost 63,000 from January to March, disastrous numbers that should have been the focus of hard-hitting NDP ads -- but they weren't.

Case of Premier fear?

The NDP appeared scared to take Campbell on -- and let him even go so far as to publicly criticize the party for not having the backing of any business groups!

Did the NDP respond that they didn't want Campbell's bankrollers on their side? That B.C. shouldn't trust the multinational corporations whose greed and mismanagement had brought the world to the brink of economic disaster?

Of course not. They shrugged it off.

Instead, the NDP ads featured health care, post-secondary tuition, education, the B.C. Legislature raid scandal, privatization, homelessness, transit cuts, raw log exports and, oh yeah, job losses.

The result -- NDP voters stayed home, unmoved by a listless campaign.

The NDP dropped 80,949 votes in 2009 compared to 2005 and this election had just 26,375 more votes than its winning total in 1996.

The Liberals won with just 63,000 more total votes than the NDP province-wide.

And a far better strategy.

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