All posts by John Delacourt

This Week’s First Ministers’ Meeting Marks A Turn in Trudeau’s Dialogue with the Premiers

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Canada’s Premiers gathered in Ottawa this week but the tone was very different than their first meeting in 2015. Our John Delacourt on a changing perception of government and working effectively with Canada’s Premiers.

In November of 2015, in the early days of this government, one of the significant gestures Trudeau made was to convene a First Ministers meeting, prior to the COP 21 meeting in Paris, to work on a concerted effort to address climate change. There was nothing agreed upon at that time, other than a resolution to meet again 90 days after the Paris meeting, yet it was less about decision making than it was about a new dialogue, a new tone, a new way of working together.

Indeed it had been six years since the Premiers had last met in this fashion. Harper never really warmed to the idea of convening these working sessions; it took the recession to create the suitable conditions for a hanging to concentrate his mind. A little more than half a decade later Trudeau, with a buoyant economy and a spring in his stride, walked into that first meeting intent upon establishing a strong working rapport and a commitment to meeting again soon – and often.

At this week’s First Ministers’ Meeting here in Ottawa, it is clear that collegiality is no longer the high priority it once was, given the challenges looming for a government in mid-mandate. Chief among them is bringing revenue in to the coffers. In the first day of the Ministers’ sitting down this week, Trudeau called upon Bill Blair, the former Toronto Police Services Chief and current Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Justice, to deliver the sobering news that the federal government will be proposing a ten percent tax on the recreational use of marijuana.

If there had been sufficient indication this was coming, the Premiers’ reactions suggested otherwise.

You can understand why many of the Premiers felt blind sided and reacted so negatively. One of the fundamental tenets of the government’s rationale to legalize marijuana is that, by providing a regulated, safe and lower cost alternative to the product currently sold illegally, they will drive the criminals out of business. It will be harder to make the lower cost argument when the combined provincial and federal tax on each product sold could be 25 percent.

And even more concerning to many, is the inequitable sharing of the work with regard to the enforcement of regulations, the policing and the changes to laws and bylaws that has to occur. Yet Trudeau, in his follow-up interviews this week, gave no indication that the federal government was prepared to back down from Blair’s presentation.

On its own, it might be overlooked, but given the fallout of liberal members of the Status of Women parliamentary committee flatly walking out and rejecting the decision to elect a Conservative Chair, and in the continuing saga of Morneau’s proposed tax changes facing a revolt from everyone from small business owners to doctors, a new perception is emerging. This new perception paints the picture of a government less receptive than resolute and less sunny than stern.

As the Liberal Government turns its focus to managing the complex, harder work of delivering a fall fiscal update and budget that stays the course for continued growth into the early months of the next campaign, surely Trudeau’s team can recall how tone can direct dialogue, and that picking a fight with the Premiers didn’t work out well for the last Prime Minister.

A former director of communications for the Liberal Research Bureau, John Delacourt is Vice President of Ensight.

The Singh Victory: Spin Versus Reality

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Jagmeet Singh’s first ballot win today in the NDP leadership contest is going to generate a great deal of copy and punditry from across the political spectrum. Herewith is a quick reality check with regard to the spin, pro and contra-Singh, that you’re about to read and hear.

Contra:
He’s a 905 phenomenon. Outside of Ontario – and especially in Quebec, the NDP will have trouble making gains and raising their seat count in the next election.

Actually, you could map the areas of the country where Jagmeet’s strongest support is and come up with a worrying picture if you were plotting Team Trudeau’s ground game. Singh’s campaign was able to attract significant numbers for a first ballot victory from parts of the country that include the Lower Mainland and the Greater Vancouver Area, and respectable numbers in urban Alberta as well. Leadership contests are a good read on where the boots-on-the-ground federal campaign support is likely to be strongest and those are communities where key gains for Team Trudeau came from in 2015. As far as Quebec goes, well, in 2008, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives formed a majority government with only 5 seats in la belle province. That’s a victory forged from the old iron of the land of two solitudes, you could argue. But if you’re a political pragmatist, you’d be focused on one thing first and foremost: more seats in the House. If that mantra sounds familiar, it should. It was Jack Layton’s strategy throughout his political career.

Pro:
He’s young, telegenic and bilingual: he’s the NDP’s Trudeau and could catch fire in the same way in the next federal campaign.

It is true that Singh has great potential to grow the party’s vote beyond an older, traditionally progressive base of support. But the dynamics of federal campaigns do not equate to voters swapping out one young, telegenic candidate for another for one simple reason: it is always about the retail, economic issues. You may be tired of the Liberals’ constant messaging about the middle class, but that’s because you’re listening all or most of the time. As the brain trust behind Stephen Harper’s first election victory maintained to great effect, it is the voters who aren’t necessarily listening that winning strategy focuses on and the simple truth remains for every candidate: whoever connects with a plan for the economy that gives the greater number of Canadians reason to be optimistic will always find their way to 24 Sussex.

Beyond the Spin:
The number of seats across the country where a Singh victory might make the NDP contenders is significant. And very few of those – apart from in Western Canada – map on to where the Conservatives might make gains as well. What this could bode well for is a 2019 campaign result that puts the Liberals into a minority and the Conservatives in a strong position to work effectively with the NDP to ensure stormy weather rather than sunny ways for the Liberals’ second mandate. And that might position the NDP for greater gains than ever imagined when Canadians go to the polls again. That could also be sooner than 2023, given how minority governments can go.

There is enough reason for Team Singh to look ahead that far and be optimistic.

Where There’s Smoke, There May Soon Be Fire – Our Dispatch From The Liberal Caucus Retreat

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For Liberal MPs traveling in from the Kelowna airport to their hotel for this week’s caucus retreat, they were told by the taxi drivers that one of the forest fires that have been raging throughout the BC interior this summer was only 25 kilometres away. Aside from the economic effects, this year’s fires have once again left many families homeless. The fires provided a somber undercurrent to the caucus meetings, a reminder of how fragile prosperity and stability can be right now for all Canadians, despite the recent strong economic growth numbers. One of Trudeau’s first public appearances, astutely enough, was with the Kelowna Fire Department to talk with the front line responders.

But there are other fires to consider too. In the evening, a sooty fog dropped like a shroud over the nearby hills of the wine country. And for many of the new Liberal Members, emerging from contentious caucus sessions over proposed tax policy changes and presentations on plans and priorities, it was easy to imagine that this grey fog was actually the smoke from the battlefield as Trudeau’s team bears down for the 2019 campaign.

Fairness for the middle class. It’s more than a mantra for Trudeau’s Liberals, as we know. It’s a guiding principle and, as Morneau’s key advisors would say, a top line message for both caucus and media in attendance at the Kelowna Delta Okanagan. Morneau’s team worked together like an emergency crew starting Wednesday morning to beat back the brush fires of resistance from caucus to the tax policy changes Morneau has proposed – curbing income “sprinkling” with family members, passive investment income and the conversion of a corporation’s regular income into capital gains. From all accounts this offensive was smart, shrewdly timed and well executed, exactly how you’d want to describe the tactical approach to selling these changes. Morneau must hope that his forthcoming “road show” for these with Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger comes off as well.

In any event, he’ll face an offensive from the Conservatives who are getting battle ready for the fall session as well. Trudeau’s final press conference here in Kelowna was peppered with questions that had him responding to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s broadsides this week – on refugee and immigration policy, on Omar Khadr’s payout and … surprise, surprise … on how these proposed tax policy changes might actually negatively impact a beleaguered middle class and, permit a small variation on the mantra here, those working hard to join the one percent. It’s too early to tell whether these lines of attack will gain real ground for the Conservatives in the weeks ahead, but Trudeau would be wise to read the heavy clouds over the horizon with cautious optimism that a storm might quell still smoldering fires.

A former director of communications for the Liberal Research Bureau, John Delacourt is Vice President of Ensight Canada

Ensight’s John Delacourt weighs in on social media best practices for parliamentarians – as featured in the Hill Times

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#cdnpoli: social media like Twitter can polarize voters and over-simplify issues

To be effective, politicians should strive for authenticity, and avoid canned posts.

By CHELSEA NASH
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 12:00 AM
The effective use of social media may at one time have given a politician an edge over their opponent. But in a world where President of the United States Donald Trump uses 140-character tweets to address and announce policy issues, and Justin Trudeau is known as the ‘selfie prime minister,’ having at least a bare-minimum presence on social media has practically become a prerequisite in politics.
“It’s part of our job. That’s how people communicate,” says Twitter aficionado and Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Alta.) “You’d be leaving out a whole cross-section of your community” if you weren’t on it, she said.
Ms. Rempel said she’s used various social media platforms to hear from her constituents on issues, including crowd-sourcing opinions on M-103, a Liberal MP’s anti-Islamophobia motion, which she voted against.
“It’s given people platforms and it’s become a very interesting [way] to exchange ideas, but I think it’s also forced us to sensationalize content,” she said. “You’re looking for that 140 characters. Donald Trump is a good example of that,” in that he simplifies “complex policy actions.”
In Canada, and the United States, Ms. Rempel, who is the immigration critic for her party, said putting immigration policy “down to 140 character soundbite” can be detrimental.
“I’m not sure it’s been the best thing for public policy,” she said.
Mark Blevis, a digital public affairs specialist with Full Duplex, said social media is changing the way politicians seek out support.
“It used to be that when you worked in politics you tried to reach the squishy middle, people who were pragmatic about issues,” he said. Now, he said there’s quite a bit of “shoot first, ask questions later” strategy going around on social media.
“They’re doing what Donald Trump does,” he said, in that they put something out that might enrage most people, but caters to their base.
“You put out the idea, you may or may not have to apologize,” he said. “The only people who are going to care about the apology is the opponents.”
Because of this strategy, which Mr. Blevis said Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch (Simcoe Grey, Ont.) is employing, “we’ve become extremely polarized.”
While Mr. Trump might be a good example of having a polarizing Twitter account (just look at the responses to anything he tweets out), no one can deny his authenticity is an asset.
John Delacourt, a former director of communications for the Liberal Research Bureau who now works at Ensight, said on Facebook and Instagram, “authenticity rules.”
“There is nothing that just becomes wallpaper quicker than a clip or a shareable that is just an MP at a podium delivering an award or delivering a speech. It looks canned,” he said. What does work well are live videos as direct addresses, or live videos featuring constituents, because “in a short video you create a short narrative,” he said. And, on social media, it all comes down to the story you’re telling, and the brand you’re delivering, Mr. Delacourt said.
Mr. Delacourt said one of the most useful platforms for politicians is Instagram. “Instagram has a great deal of potential, and as a way of taking a piece that you do from one platform to another,” he said. It also appeals to younger voters, who might not be as engaged on Facebook or Twitter.
The Hill Times took a look at the Canadian politicians who are leading the way in social media use. While some of them are better on some platforms than others, they all have a unique strength.
Top 10 Canadian politicians to follow on social media:
1. Justin Trudeau
Instagram: @justinpjtrudeau
Snapchat: justintrudeaupm
Without a doubt, the prime minister’s social media presence is one that’s been honed to near-perfection. While his Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages are obviously curated by staff, with well thought-out captions to photos, and posts always seamlessly appearing in both official languages, his followers don’t expect the prime minister to have time to personally update them. The team behind his social presence knows what they’re doing. The dissemination of an Instagram photo of Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) greeting a newly-arrived Syrian refugee at Toronto Pearson Airport was an instant “shareable” moment, Mr. Delacourt said. “And in many respects, of course there was a level of authenticity there, because we all knew this wasn’t staged, this was something that occurred in real time.”
“What the PM is incredibly good at, is he has an active working conversation with those who are working with him,” Mr. Delacourt said, which can make up for the fact that it’s not actually Mr. Trudeau behind the posts. “I think of Adam Scotti who’s working with him,” he said, referring to Mr. Trudeau’s photographer. “There are years of a simpatico relationship there.”
2. Rona Ambrose
Facebook: @ronaambrose
Instagram: @ronaambrose
Snapchat: rona.ambrose
After the last election, in which the Liberals used social media to their advantage to encourage the youth vote, the official leader of the opposition knew she had to step up her game if she was to keep pace. “Behind the scenes” videos of Ms. Ambrose show her clapping, laughing, and clapping some more as she prepares to deliver weekly video updates to her followers. And arguably, one of the best #cdnpoli mannequin challenges was done by Ms. Ambrose and her team, showing the full official opposition office standing still as if turned to statues. The “mannequin challenge” is a social media craze of filming a room full of people frozen in position that took the world by storm last year.
3. Jagmeet Singh
Facebook: @jagmeetndp
Instagram: @jagmeetsingh
Snapchat: jagmeetsingh
Jagmeet Singh is seen here posing for a mirror selfie. On his Instagram page, he demonstrates a stylish and casual brand.
In the Ontario NDP, Mr. Singh is making waves as an up-and-comer whom we might see a whole lot more of if he decides to enter the federal NDP leadership race. Mr. Singh was recently profiled in GQ Magazine, thanks in large part to his avid social media use. Mr. Singh updates his followers constantly on his Snapchat and Instagram accounts. Follow him to get a glimpse of the life of a polished and trendy politician, including selfies, protest photos, and video messages on issues he cares about.
4. Michelle Rempel
Instagram: @michellerempel
Ms. Rempel is as fiery on Twitter as she is in Question Period. She is an entertaining politician to follow, since she doesn’t shy away from a good debate. “I think people engage and find the content more useful to them when it’s an authentic reflection of the person,” she said. “There’s a flavour of me. It’s not a cardboard cutout.”
5. Naheed Nenshi
Twitter: @nenshi
Facebook: @NaheedNenshi
Instagram: @nenshi
Speaking of Ms. Rempel’s debates, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was one of the latest to get into a sparring match with the Calgary Nose Hill MP. But dramatic arguments aside, Mr. Nenshi is a good example of knowing your brand and staying authentic. It’s one of the reasons he was able to get into it with Ms. Rempel in the first place. In all likelihood, staff-managed accounts don’t get into arguments on Twitter.
6. Carolyn Bennett
The minister of indigenous and northern affairs demonstrates her social media savvy by hosting weekly Q&As via Facebook. Every Sunday night going back years before she took over her current ministerial role, Ms. Bennett (Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ont.) has consulted her constituents using one of the most widely used platforms. While her Instagram only has two posts, Mr. Blevis says her effective use of Facebook and Twitter puts her top of mind as one of the best Liberal ministers for online engagement.
7. Tony Clement
Facebook: @tonyclementpsm
Instagram: @tonyclementcpc
Snapchat: tonyclementcpc
For the avid #cdnpoli follower, Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) provides a nice depth for his audience. Photos and posts often come from his point of view, like an Instagram of his guitar, or the snow outside his Huntsville home, instead of a collection of photographs of him at different events. But, the most entertaining part about following Mr. Clement is his use of Snapchat filters, which add different features to one’s selfie, such as dog ears, or a flower crown. Mr. Clement said he prefers the thematic ones, such as the pizza-slice face for National Pizza Day, and the Hello Kitty one for Valentine’s Day.
Mr. Clement said he does most of his own social media, though his staff might help him with Facebook now and again. Asked how much time he thinks he spends on social media in a given week, Mr. Clement said with a laugh that he’d rather not answer, as it could get him in trouble with his wife.
Mr. Blevis said Mr. Clement’s style on Twitter “is interactive.”
“Most MPs, 80 per cent of their content would be communications. Regular tweets like, ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ They’ll retweet and they’ll almost not reply at all. The average MP reply rate is five per cent. He has about a 40 per cent reply rate. He was looking for questions to answer,” Mr. Blevis said.
8. Niki Ashton
Twitter: @nikiashton
Facebook: @MPNikiAshton
Instagram: @nikiashtonmp
Every person The Hill Times spoke to pointed to Ms. Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.) as one of the best users of social media. Mr. Blevis said Ms. Ashton knows how to use different platforms for different purposes.
“It’s not just about having popular tools like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, it’s knowing which ones to use, and how,” he said.
Otherwise, if people follow you on more than one platform, they are getting the same message blasted to them over and over.
In an interview with Mr. Blevis for his podcast, Ms. Ashton told him that within First Nations communities, Facebook is very important for staying in touch over long distances. So, she uses Facebook specifically for listening to First Nations communities in her riding.
However, one downfall of Ms. Ashton’s social media strategy is her use of two separate Instagram accounts. One was created only recently, which Mr. Blevis speculated could be because she is planning on creating a more curated image before announcing her run for the leadership of the NDP. However, upon looking at both Instagram accounts, Mr. Blevis said there was no reason for the two of them to be separated. The content could be merged into one account, and her followers would hardly know the difference.
9. Jim Watson
Instagram: @jimwatsonottawa
An exchange on Twitter shows how Jim Watson responds to almost everyone who interacts with him, making him one of the more accessible Canadian mayors.
The Ottawa mayor is a natural choice to follow for those living and working in Ottawa. Mr. Watson has a certain affinity for engaging with his followers. On Twitter, he will often reply to those who start a conversation with him, whether it be criticism, praise, or simple conversation.
10. Gary Anandasangaree
Twitter: @gary_srp
Mr. Delacourt pointed to Mr. Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ont.) as someone who has been effective at reaching out to diverse communities in his riding through social media. On Twitter and Facebook, Mr. Anandasangaree posts frequently about Tamil Heritage Month, which was created under his own private member’s bill. He also invites his constituents to celebrate Black History Month with him, shares stories of Tamil heritage in Newfoundland, and links to reflections on the impact of superstar boxer Muhammad Ali.
cnash@hilltimes.com
@chels_nash

Political Perspectives – Perfect Timing For Liberal Summer Caucus Retreat

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By Greg MacNeil, Vice President

Moments ago, the Prime Minister wrapped up his post-caucus retreat media availability. This is the first time the caucus has gathered together since June. Unlike the recent Cabinet retreat in Sudbury, Liberal members did not have to share rooms with each other.

The timing of this year’s Liberal summer caucus retreat could not have been better for the government. After more than a week of news articles about inappropriate expenses submitted by Cabinet Ministers, the government used the retreat as an opportunity to reset and focus on core mandate promises like addressing climate change and encouraging economic growth.

While policy discussions were the primary focus of the retreat, there were lengthy discussions about operations. Specifically, how offices are handling expenses in order to avoid future distractions. Due to a change implemented at Treasury Board, Access to Information (ATIP) requests are being processed faster. Given this new reality, more stories about inappropriate expenses are bound to happen unless there is a cultural change in each office. More political oversight of expenses is being instituted in order to avoid future mistakes.

Caucus members were also told about some of the staff changes made in ministers offices. Specifically, many of the changes that occurred were done in an attempt to increase communications capacity in offices that are expected to receive more public attention over the coming months.

Over the next month, the government is expected to focus more on international relations. This morning the government pledged up to 600 soldiers and up to an additional $450 million in funding. The Minister of Defence will be going to London in two weeks to discuss with partner nations where these commitments are needed.

Next week, the Prime Minister and Minister Dion, will be heading to China to discuss ways in which the two nations can strengthen their relationship. Following these bilateral discussions, the PM will attend the G20 summit in Beijing. Lead ministers at the G20 summit will be Minister Morneau and Minister Freeland. The government is widely rumoured to be pursuing a free trade agreement with China. Minister Freeland is expected to raise a number of current trade irritants with the Chinese government. One of the more high-profile non-tariff trade barriers expected to be discussed is the recent restrictions on Canadian canola. Keeping in the spirit of Sunny Ways, the Minister is planning to give Chinese Government a jar of Canadian Canola Oil.

The Conservatives’ Rhetoric On Pipelines Is A Blast From The Past

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By: Greg MacNeil

For those old enough to remember, the Conservative party of 2016 has a familiar look — almost as though it has discovered a portal back to the way things were 15 or so years ago.

Rather than engaging in a robust post-election rebuilding process and seeking to broaden its base, the Conservative party has decided to retreat into their comfort zone of regional grievance politics.

Under the leadership of Rona Ambrose, the Conservatives appear to be abandoning any attempt to repair the national coalition that swept them to power in 2006. Indeed, today they look more like the Canadian Alliance of the early 2000s than the governing Conservatives of the last 10 years.

The latest and most obvious example of this is the party’s recent opposition day motion on the Energy East pipeline. The motion called on the government to support the Energy East pipeline project before an environmental assessment was complete. Over the last two sitting weeks, three of every four of Ambrose’s questions in the House have focused on Alberta and the Energy East pipeline.

Ambrose’s rhetoric appeals to those impacted the most by the current state of Canada’s energy sector.

On the face of it, this is an understandable tactic. Alberta’s economy and the energy sector in Canada are contracting. The Conservative caucus is largely dominated by Albertan MPs, with constituents facing very grim economic news. There is no question that all MPs, particularly ones from that region, are under a great deal of pressure to do something.

Furthermore, there are likely more than a few MPs on the Conservative side who are still wary of the fact that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were able to breach the walls of Conservative Fortress Alberta in the last general election. Not to mention the NDP victory in the provincial election last year.

Something needs to be done.

 

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“Rather than help Alberta’s economy, Ambrose’s rhetoric decreases the likelihood of projects receiving the broad popular support required to proceed.” 

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Industry believes that the fastest way to approve large-scale pipelines is to tone down the rhetoric and let the experts do their jobs. Even Stephen Harper’s government understood this simple reality.

The wording of the opposition day motion is a major departure from the previous government’s policy on the matter.

Some will recall that the Harper Government refused to officially endorse the Northern Gateway Pipeline project until the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel had a chance to finish its review. Anxious to shore up support for its western base, the new Conservative party is asking the government to endorse a project before the experts have had a chance to review it.

The use of pipelines as a wedge issue poisons the discussion about Canada’s energy sector. Rather than help Alberta’s economy, Ambrose’s rhetoric decreases the likelihood of projects receiving the broad popular support required to proceed.

In contrast, the Liberals are offering a more appealing way forward for industry by attempting to de-politicize the process. A regulatory process that depends less on politics and more on evidence will strengthen the public’s and industry’s confidence in the regulatory framework.

Perhaps Ambrose has made an honest mistake. People whose livelihoods are tied to this industry are concerned. This tactic could be an attempt to address their fears and worries. A cynical person might say that this was all about fundraising. That this was an attempt to get Conservative supporters in the region to open their wallets for the party cause. Or maybe it was part of a strategy to prevent the Liberal government from succeeding in building a large-scale pipeline project that meets high environmental standards — something their government failed to do during the 10 years they were in power.

Regardless of motive, this is the wrong call. Not only does this threaten the economic rebound of the industry and the region, but also it threatens the long-term viability of the Conservative movement. National coalitions aren’t built in one region of the country.

Greg MacNeil is Vice President of Ensight. In the past, he has worked for the Liberal Party on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park. Ensight represents a number of clients in Canada’s energy sector.

BEYOND THE NUMBERS – SECURITY AND ANTI-TERRORISM

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By Greg MacNeil

Welcome to Beyond the Numbers, an exclusive look into research on important issues in federal politics that ENsight Canada has undertaken over the course of the past several months.

In recent days, the Conservative campaign has put a great deal of emphasis on combatting terrorism at home and abroad. On Sunday, the government announced a travel ban to places in the world with known links to terrorist organizations. Harper had strong words for his opponents, claiming that they were soft on the issue. Opposition parties have suggested that this renewed focus was just “political posturing” to help shore up the Conservative base. The incumbent Conservatives maintain that this is a principled position. Regardless of the sincerity of the government’s announcement, there is empirical evidence to suggest that it will indeed motivate Conservative voters.

ENsight has been tracking public support for the Conservative Party’s Bill C-51 and the mission against ISIS since April of this year. While public support for C-51 has dropped significantly since April, support amongst Conservative voters has remained high. In the most recent wave, ENsight asked Canadians how much of a priority ensuring domestic security and anti-terrorism measures should be.

Bill C-51

The controversial bill passed earlier this year has garnered much attention over the last few months. When ENsight first asked Canadians about whether or not they supported the new law, half (52%) said they supported the measure. In fact fully one quarter (26%) said they strongly supported it. Today that level of total support sits at 45%, with 19% who say they strongly support the law.

In April, even amongst NDP voters support for the bill was relatively high, with 39% saying that they supported the bill and 42% saying that they opposed it. Today that number has not changed significantly. As of last week, support for the bill amongst NDP voters was at 33% with opposition at 46%.

Conservatives, on the other hand, were far more supportive of the bill, with 78% saying they supported it and only 11% opposing. Since April, Conservative voters have remained strongly supportive of the new law. Today, amongst Conservative voters, total support for the bill is at 75%. In fact, the proportion of Conservatives that strongly support (40%) the law is as high or higher than the total support for the bill amongst Liberal voters (40%) and NDP voters (33%).

ISIS

While overall support for the mission has eroded since April, a majority of Conservative (63%) voters remain supportive. A minority of NDP (27%) and Liberal (34%) voters remain supportive of the mission today. Liberal support for the mission has remained static, while NDP support has dropped (by 11 points).

Ensuring domestic security and anti-terrorism measures here at home

An overwhelming majority of Canadians believe that the federal government should make ensuring domestic security and anti-terrorism measures here at home a priority (71%). This is a widely held opinion across partisan lines, but is especially true for Conservatives. A sizable majority of NDP voters (65%), Liberal voters (73%), and Conservative voters (83%) hold this view. Amongst Conservative voters, a full 45% believe that it should be an urgent priority.

Conclusion

If the Conservative strategy is to rally the base in the first few weeks of the campaign, talking about security and anti-terrorism is an effective way to do so. The issue is of high importance to the general public, but is especially high for Conservative voters. By marrying the ISIS Mission to C-51, Harper has created a wedge issue that is relevant in a domestic and foreign policy context. This affords him more opportunities to appeal to his core constituents, while attracting new support amongst undecideds and soft supporters of the opposition parties.

Further, many believe that Canada is currently in economic recession – a fact that is not lost on both opposition parties. Many of the harshest criticisms levelled at the Conservative Party since the beginning of the campaign have been about the economy. Speaking about terrorism abroad and at home allows the Prime Minister to pivot from a potentially weak subject area for him, like the economy, to a relative position of strength.