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It’s October 21, 2019. The dark of night has descended upon the city and the nation. The reality sets in…THIS IS IT! All the door knocking, all the phone calling, all the campaigning in person and online, all the GOTV (get out the vote) activity, all the toiling, all the dollars… all the effort spent over the last 3 months has now been committed to the history books. The only thing left to do is to count the votes and see what the future truly holds for our communities and the country at large.
As time ticks by the crowd continues to trickle into the campaign office, CBC is on, computer screens flicker and hum, and GlobalTV’s Election Night Poll Tracker server is being hit with a refresh request once per second. As the poll reporting continues to roll in, every move of the seat counts up or down is met with audible feedback from the large group of volunteers, campaign staff and the assorted family members they’ve brought in tow that now are filling up the office. The excitement and the anxiety are palpable.
As the night proceeds, the mood becomes increasingly somber and the realization that tonight isn’t going to turn out the way we’d hoped begins to set in. Acceptance of this fact won’t catch up with most of us for a couple days yet. When the speeches have all been given, the hugs have all been hugged and the office begins to empty out, we are collectively met with a strong sense that though things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, they may ultimately yield a positive result. The signs are there.
With the rising of the sun on the Oct. 22, regular life begins again. The dawn brings with it a renewed sense of optimism. This optimism comes from an ability to more clearly reflect on the outcomes of the evening prior and what those outcomes truly signify moving forward:
1) Yes, we got beaten, but our biggest rival was held to a minority.
2) Yes, we got beaten, but in the process we grew the number of seats we hold by roughly 20%.
3) Yes, we got beaten, but we won the popular vote (representative of the hearts and minds of the broader populace). This point is particularly critical because I believe it sent the Liberals the only message they understand; the people are displeased and the power and control you enjoy today is transient, so be warned.
4) Yes, we got beaten, but we also got a tremendous amount of insight into what worked and didn’t work, both for us, as well as for our opponents.
5) Yes, we got beaten, but the country spoke and I believe that I heard what they said. As is a typical course of action for most human beings, in failure you seek out a place to lay blame. A single place where you can lay responsibility that isn’t directly in your own lap. It’s totally natural. Many localize their anger. They point to shortcomings of the campaign staff or the “ground game” or of specific efforts or actions that didn’t result in the success they’d anticipated. Some pointed at the easy scapegoats like Ford or the specter of Harper’s last days in office and the negativity that was attached to his name and tenure. Many want to point the finger squarely at party leadership and shrug off local or historical contributing factors altogether. Some split it right down the middle and blamed everybody.
As Oct. 22 became Oct. 23 the long knives came out and the calls for leadership change became louder. With all due respect, however, I find this position to be intellectually lazy. Let’s analyze it.
1) Andrew Scheer emerged as leader from the ashes of one of the most contentious, scorched-earth leadership campaigns we’ve seen in a long time. Bernier’s inability to graciously accept defeat and his refusal to recognize Andrew’s victory paved the way for the war that followed and the rift it created in the Party. The dissention in the ranks and the lack of unity didn’t wear well on either side of this rift, much less so for the PPC than the CPC, however. To emerge from this type of situation with a fighting chance of simply maintaining the seat count we had secured the last time around, would already have been an accomplishment. To post gains under this cloud of disarray and party infighting, speaks volumes to Andrew’s natural leadership potential. There are MANY ridings where it is clear that the vote splitting on the ideological right as a result of the above, demonstrably cost the CPC the seat.
2) It has become clear that Canadians, particularly millennial and younger Canadians that have now come of age and are quickly becoming the largest voting demographic in the country, are hungry for younger, more generationally synchronous leaders. This can be seen across the board in both the private and public sectors. Case and point is the sheer (pardon the pun) number of 20 and 30 somethings that picked up seats under the banner of the Bloc in Quebec. We have examples of this in our own party as well on both the provincial level, as well as the federal level. Andrew, though a family man with five kids and a seemingly long history in the political arena, is barely scratching 40. His youthful energy and ability to connect with younger voters are truly assets. It’s my view that given more of an opportunity to really connect with younger voters directly and personally (i.e. all day, every day, over the next 18 months), Andrew could overcome the characterization of him as indifferent, stuffy and disconnected from their world view that he’s been saddled with by political enemies and a hostile media.
3) Andrew is a builder. It’s evident by looking at his history and track record. Anyone who has ever built anything or had something built for them knows that building properly takes time, patience and attention to detail. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s also not something that happens on YOUR schedule. Reflecting on what’s transpired over the last couple years and in particular the last 90 days has provided some perspective. Andrew secured the leadership post and immediately got to work laying the foundation for the party’s path forward. A platform was developed, a strategy was put in place, a message was crafted and he took the show on the road. Hundreds of campaign stops, tens of thousands of hands shaken and babies kissed… every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you might expect. The campaign was fought in the face of massive opposition by the media, by the 2 other major parties, by the back-biting from within our own party and by the emergence of a new contender who’s solitary goal was to leech voters away from the CPC in an effort to teach the party a lesson. The protest vote.
With all this opposition, with all the pitfalls and unexpected twists and turns, Andrew’s leadership and the party’s message still broke through. Huge seat gains, reduction of power by the victors to minority status, securing of the popular vote and a round rebuke of the defectors from the party are not small things. They are actually quite substantial and established a trajectory that trends toward success.
Under the continued leadership of Andrew Scheer we are poised to achieve this success. The message has clearly already begun to resonate and so the task now turns to amplification of that message and deeper penetration into the demographics we didn’t win over this time. I sincerely believe that the economic message of the Conservative party cannot be challenged by our opponents and as such they turn to what they know: character assassination and identity politics. Andrew Scheer has proven to be the candidate that can weather those storms. With the continued support of ALL (small c) conservative-minded people across the country I am certain that we can follow the course he’s set forth for victory.