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The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - John Capobianco, Marit Stiles and Bernie Farber - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.


It's the first week of a federal election campaign that will go down in history as one of Canada's longest — 78 days. The policies and political styles of the three main party leaders — Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau — are already evident. But what can Canadians expect in the days to come, and who can best address the serious issues facing the country?  The ONW Salon is in full campaign mode, with Capobianco, Stiles and Farber.


John Capobianco:

As one of the major papers' headlines stated: "They're Off", which is exactly what happened Sunday at around 10 am - the Writ was finally dropped.

The opposition was quick to claim that this was unnecessary and it will be too long of a campaign and the Conservatives have way too much money, etc., etc.

The reality is the campaign had unofficially begun when the House rose earlier this summer. Even the media claimed that the leaders would be campaigning throughout the summer. Having a fixed election date as we do will cause this to happen — knowing when the election will be makes campaigns work backwards, so it was inevitable that when we entered into the year 2015, everyone knew we were going to have an election.

Earlier this year, there was much conjecture and complaining that the PM was going to call an early election which of course he didn't - he stuck to the legislated date of October 19th, but of course there is much complaining that election call yesterday makes this a long campaign.

Why on earth would two political parties complain of a long election period when they now have the ability to sell their respective policies to Canadians? In actual fact, they would have complained if the PM called an election with the minimum amount of writ days anyway.


Bernie Farber:

Frankly, with the latest Forum poll (yes, yes I know the only poll that counts is on election day) giving the NDP a 10% lead, taken immediately after the writ was released, this may turn out to be the most important and different election in Canadian history.

Unlike some of my fellow progressives from the NDP and the Liberals, I am not as fussed with a long election date.

I am not convinced this will actually help any party in the long run and may actually hurt the Tories since the electorate will get to see the inevitable warts and bruises obtained by any government in power for over 10 years.

There is an air of change in the air. As summer turns to autumn and Canadians really begin to pay attention these numbers will change. For now suffice to say that the silly Tory attack ads are having a huge boomerang effect. They were poorly produced, amateurishly done and people are laughing at them, not with them.

And finally, like most Canadians I am annoyed at the PM for refusing to a full debate that the majority of Canadians can watch. This is hurting him badly.


Marit Stiles:

I agree ... change is in the air.

What we saw unfold yesterday was the narrative we'll be hearing for 78 (now 76) days. The ballot question was set out by Mulcair and Harper: does Stephen Harper deserve 4 more years or will you elect the NDP and bring hope and optimism back to the Canadian middle class?

Harper's fear mongering was to be anticipated ... but to me it smacked of a certain desperation. This is a PM who has governed with an iron fist. But he's losing control. He's failed to strengthen the economy. He's failed to clean up the scandals and corruption of the previous Liberal government. More Canadians currently want him gone than want him to stay in power. The question will be whether that will translate into enough seats, this time, to oust him. 

Which is where the NDP and Mulcair come in. Mulcair put his proposition out there clearly. He's made his pitch for a stronger economy, support for families, building the middle class, caring for our environment. This is a party that is ready to govern. And a leader who Canadians can envision as PM.

I don't disagree with Bernie about the election timing/length. If anything, this may backfire on the Conservatives. They have to keep up the argument for status quo for 78 days. Lots of room for Mulcair to solidify the call for change, change, change.


John Capobianco:

Bernie, as a veteran of campaigns you know that change is always in the air when elections are called — for the simple reason that the collective voters of the opposing parties want change. However, the question will be change to what extent, and change for the sake of change can be disastrous.

I submit — and the PM kicked off the campaign on this note — that we need stability now more than ever. The global economic climate is tenuous, with lower oil prices causing our dollar to dip, as well as what we are seeing internationally with countries like Greece on the brink of bankruptcy.  We need to have a strong hand. This is not the time for the tax and spend policies of the Liberals or the NDP. Nor is it the time for weak leadership when it comes to issues of national security.

Yes, Steven Harper has been PM for close to 10 years and we have seen this country survive one of the most challenging economic times in recent memory and resolve to ensure we continue to create jobs and continue to lead the G7 out of this current economic downturn.

This election has just begun and most Canadians will likely tune in after the summer break, but at least we will have 70 plus days of solid policy discussion and discourse. Nothing wrong with that.


Bernie Farber:

John it’s exactly this kind of rhetoric that voters reject: the rhetoric of fear mongering.  The status quo is no longer acceptable and Canadians have been letting pollsters and pundits know this in no uncertain terms.

Unquestionably, we are worried about the economy. In fact wasn't it Harper who only a few weeks ago who was touting our economy as strong and stable, and today we are heading into a recession? Voters are taking a solid look at Harper's alleged ability to run our economy and are finding it wanting.

As for security I believe all three leaders want to keep Canada safe. Harper's record is the only one we have in over 10 years and frankly it's not impressive. We need to be cautious but not riddled with fear.

It is time as well that we return to a stable democratic base. The last 10 years has seen what was once an open, decent and welcoming Canada being turned on its head. No longer are we considered peacekeepers, honest brokers and a warm and welcoming place for the poor, downtrodden and needy. I’m looking forward to real change.


Marit Stiles:

Bernie, I find the "real change" line of the Liberals very interesting... is "real change" re-electing the same old party of scandal and corruption and insiders, of the last century? Or is real change hope and optimism and accountability? 

Trudeau was late for the game yesterday, and that's nothing new. He's playing catch-up, and it's starting to look like Canadians have given up on him already. Which makes the "change narrative" dangerous for the Libs. If Canadians want "real change" they're going to need to back a party that can actually defeat Harper, and is a clear alternative. 

The 78-day campaign is a marathon and a lot can happen. Harper's challenge will be sustaining his message of "status quo" for this period, particularly if the election is indeed about change. He'll need to counter ... and with what? 

The NDP is extremely well positioned to propose a sound alternative.‎ Mulcair's impressive opposition to the security bill, C51, positions his party as the only true alternative to the Conservatives' anti-democratic rants about "security". And his experience counters the "risk taking/fear factor" lines Harper will use about the economy. 

And with that, I'm going to go put up some pretty orange signs! It's on!










About The Salon's Capobianco, Stiles, Mahoney

Richard Mahoney is a former Liberal advisor to Rt. Hon. Paul Martin; Marit Stiles is a federal and Ontario NDP strategist; and John Capobianco is a former CPC candidate and long-time party activist in both the federal and Ontario Conservative parties
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