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Despite Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, repeated lies, and overwhelming hypocrisy, the Canadian election remains close.
The aggregate of polls gives the Conservatives a narrow lead at best, and some seat projections even show the Liberals poised to win more seats with fewer votes.
A big part of this is due to the bias of the establishment media, who clearly want Justin Trudeau to win, and never properly vetted Trudeau in the first place.
However, another reason the Conservatives are struggling is because Andrew Scheer is struggling to generate “controlled controversy.”
In today’s chaotic media environment, it’s impossible to ‘control the message,’ as campaigns once talked about.
What is possible is to create controversy that helps drown out other issues being discussed, and move at least some of the conversation onto more favourable ground.
It requires a bit of recklessness and tactical flexibility, and that’s something the Conservatives have struggled to show so far.
For example, Scheer has faced repeated questions about his view towards LGBT people, and while the controversy is irrelevant on a factual basis (Scheer has made clear he won’t change any laws) it is relevant on a political basis, since Scheer keeps having to talk about it.
Now, an example of effective ‘controlled controversy’ would be for Scheer to announce that he will march in the same pride parade Ontario Premier Doug Ford marched in this year. Ford effectively handled the controversy over whether he would march or not by refusing to march in any parade that excluded the police, and then marching in a smaller town pride parade that included police representation.
If Scheer were to pledge to march in the same parade, he would draw positive media attention to himself, while also helping win over some of the moderate suburban voters he needs to win. Additionally, by pledging to march with the Ontario Premier, Scheer would incite the Liberals into attacking Doug Ford over and over again, and compare both of them.
But since the comparison would be covered in the media in the context of Scheer pledging to march in a pride parade, Scheer would be effectively controlling part of the media narrative, using a controversy of his own creation to draw attention to something that can help improve his image.
Now, some people may say that Scheer simply refuses to march out of some ideological viewpoint, but considering the stakes of this election (and the serious threat to national unity if Trudeau wins again), marching in a parade would be a small price to pay for Scheer in order to improve the chances of defeating the Liberals.
Alas, the Conservatives so far appear to be running an extremely safe and methodical campaign. It’s an understandable reaction to a hostile media environment, but with the polls showing a national deadlock, a safe and methodical campaign may not be enough. It’s time to take some risks, and generate some controlled controversy before it’s too late.