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                Election 2014: In Final Push, Parties Must Guard Against 

                          Desperate Mistakes They'll Pay For Later 



By Susanna Kelley 


In the last days of this Ontario election, all three parties are ratcheting up the rhetoric, fear mongering, and doing everything they can think of to motivate their supporters and volunteers to get them to the polls.

This is a dangerous time for parties and the public, when desperation sets in at both the riding and the central campaign levels.

It's the time when winning becomes everything in war rooms, and ill-advised moves like an announcement to close a half-built gas plant are made at the eleventh hour to save five seats, such as in the last Ontario election. That announcement haunted the Liberals for two and a half years, and has played a significant role in this election.

It's a time when mistakes are easily made in campaign rooms, both central ones and in ridings - places by now filled with exhausted campaign managers and underlings who have invested 150% of their time and effort for the last six weeks, if not more. By now they are running on 3-4 hours sleep a night, fuelled by caffeine and adrenaline, and are often grouchy. They can often see their own careers, or at least reputations, on the line, dependent on a win or loss.

It's the time when fake calls are made to voters a party thinks will cast their ballot for another party, telling them their voting location has changed, with the real intent of ensuring they don't vote at all. At least that's what happened in the robo calls scandal in the last federal election.

It's the time when fear mongering by all three parties reaches a fever pitch.

Just look at the massive ad buys the parties have unleashed for these waning days of the campaign.

PC leader Tim Hudak actually began his fear mongering early with the faulty claim that there are a million people unemployed in Ontario. The real figure is somewhere around half that.

Then there was his claim he'd create a million jobs in eight years through his austerity policies, subsequently debunked by economists on both the left and right.

The Tories, in particular, seem to be everywhere - on television, on the Internet, on radio.

And in their major ad blitz, the "Million Jobs" number is being pumped even harder. Less seen is Mr. Hudak' s promise to get rid of 100,000 public servants. And Mr. Hudak has suddenly opted for a "kinder, gentler" approach - talking about his concern for the disabled, for example. 

It is no coincidence this is coming at the end of a campaign where his opponents have described him as “scary”.

With Wynne's declaration that "A vote for Horwath is a vote for Hudak," the ads are clearly meant to frighten New Democratic supporters into voting Liberal, saying he will destroy social programs as well.

It's a tactic former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty used in the twilight days of not just the 2011 campaign but also in 2007.

For her part, Andrea Horwath is trying to blunt the attempt to steal her voters, aggressively urging crowds "Don't let them tell you how to vote" and "You don't have to choose between corruption and crazy."  Corrupt or crazy - not exactly a subtle message.

While all that is going on for public consumption, internally the parties are focused on something else.

Their most important weapon? Their "Get Out The Vote" (GOTV) machines for the June 12 election day.

In a race that the pollsters and everyone else says is neck and neck between the Liberals and Tories, a good GOTV effort can mean the difference between victory and defeat; between minority and majority.

That's a big problem for the parties right now, because GOTV efforts are almost totally dependent on volunteers, and many campaigns are suffering from a dearth of them.

In many ridings there are around 200 voting polls, each covering a geographical area and thus used by the riding campaigns for identifying their voters during the campaign.  They will try to get their voters - and only their voters - out this Thursday.

Insiders say the Tories are worried about whether they have enough volunteers to get their supporters to the polls, but it has to be a concern in the other parties as well this time when so many voters have said they aren't very enamoured with any of the three choices.

Many campaigns have only 20 to 30 volunteers per riding.  How do you get 200 polls covered on E-day with just 30 volunteers, where not only does every identified voter has to be contacted, but their names checked at the polling station to ensure they've voted, plus keep an eye on each polling station to make sure there is no funny business by your opponent?

Watch for volunteers to be pulled out of unwinnable ridings and shipped over to those where parties have a better chances. So with just days to go, it's all about the TV ad campaigns and the GOTV Election Day machinery now.

But it's also a time for parties to be extra careful no mistakes are made that can come back to haunt a government later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : June 10, 2014

View all of Susanna Kelley's columns
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