Election Day and GOTV

The last day of election is understandably one of the most stressful days of the campaign. When I was not involved in politics I though election the candidates would simply just sit and wait for the results to roll in but political teams are extremely busy.

Majority of the tour team were assigned into key ridings that our internal polling showed would be a tight race and we were all expected to pull vote. I was assigned to Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.

I was send in about a week ahead of election day to prepare their local team for the election I mainly assisted preparing what we call e-day (election day) kits for volunteers to use on election day to pull vote. This collectively is known as getting out the vote or GOTV.

If anyone has had a campaign volunteer knock on their door they may remember the volunteer asking them who they might be voting for in the election. Some voters find this invasive but I will explain why we ask. We ask because we are looking for people who are willing to vote for our candidate, we ask so we can collect the houses and names of people who are willing to vote for us then on election day we go back to those houses and knock on the doors and ask them to come vote. This way we maximize the votes for our candidate.

I was in charge of printing all the lists of the people who had told us they would vote for us, break them down into manageable lists for volunteers and distribute door knocks which are cards with the voting location printed on them to remind voters where they can vote and to vote for our candidate.

On Election Day we will leave the door knockers on the door in the morning the follow up later to ask people if they have voted yet.

CBC did an piece that explains the process quiet wel l and it was actually done on one of the candidates I was responsible for during the election Salma Zahid. Below is a link to the piece.

There are a lot of interesting points in the video and I will write another blog post more specifically about the data we collect and what my thoughts on it are.

But back to Election Day, in Auroara—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill we divided the riding up into 3 sections and had satellite campaign offices there for the day. We call them home centres. We then allocate our volunteers to the home centres have them operate out of there for the election day. Volunteers would pick up a election day kit and go put up the door knocks then later knock on the doors and ask people to vote. They would also drop by the elections Canada voting station and sign in as a scrutinizers and periodically throughout the day then would get a list of people who already had voted. We would cross reference those people without liberal supporters list and cross off people who had voted already and re-knock on the doors of the people who had not voted. This would go on for whole day till around 8:30pm.

Around 8:30 we would then send all our volunteers to the polling stations so they could observe the vote count then report the results back to us so we could have an idea if we won or not.

At the polling station I was at I was only liberal there and we have 5 conservatives scrutinizers. During the count we would try to disqualify any votes that were for the opposing candidate that could be disqualified. How we do that is if we see someone made a marking for the conservative candidate and they put their initials somewhere on the ballot I could as a scrutinizers challenge that vote and disqualify it on the grounds that it is identifiable who the person making the vote was. I personally never try to disqualify a person’s vote if the intention who they are voting for is clear. I think it is just undemocratic.

My conservative colleagues where quite studious at doing so, they challenged every single one of the votes for the liberal candidate that they could. This is very common for tightly contested ridings. Throughout the count, the elections Canada staff was very polite and helpful to me they often asked me if I too wanted to challenge ballots that were questionable votes for the candidates. The polling station I was at we ended up winning in each poll which was quite nice and by the time I left the polling station we had already been declared winners.

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Debates

One of the most talked about aspects of an election campaign are the debates. The 2015 campaign was no exception. Talk about the debates started several weeks before the election was even called. The conservatives had early on decided that they will not be participating in the broadcaster’s consortium debate as per tradition of previous elections.

The Broadcaster’s consortium is an organization comprised of the largest television broadcasters across Canada. They typically get together during election and host 2 debates that they all air. One in English and one in French.

The 2015 campaign the conservatives decided not to participate in the English broadcasters consortium debate, because they felt like the broadcasters had created a cartel and it was not fair they had a monopoly to watching the debates. So instead they agreed to several smaller debates with various smaller organizers such as Rogers Media and the Globe and Mail.

I personally believe they decided to do this because they felt like having more debates would give more opportunity for Mr Trudeau to underperform and this in turn would hurt his candidacy to be PM. This turned out to be a mistake as Mr Trudeau performed quite well in all the debates and really dispelled the he’s not ready message the conservatives had worked so hard to cultivate.

The turning point was in Macleans debate which was the first one. Below is a clip from the debate that i believe really started our turn in fortunes.

In the clip, Mr Mulcair was referring to the clarity act and what number of votes Mr Trudeau thought was enough to allow for Quebec to separate. Mr Trudeau was seen in the video was able to give an answer to Mr Mulcair who was suppose to outclass the intellectual light weight of Mr Trudeau. This I believe really showed Canadians that Justin was ready to do the job and it was this moment that really change the fortunes for the liberal party during the election.

Now it is often debated whether or not debates actually convince people to vote and what’s their value. I think people who watched the debates are the hard core politicos who have already made up their mine. I think the value of the debates is in the coverage of how the debate went by the media outlets. Mr Trudeau was able demonstrate he was ready in the debates to the media outlets who in then reported he was available to the rest of the public and I believe this contributed greatly to our success.

Rallies and Announcements

During the campaign the tour team constantly had Mr Trudeau doing Rallies and Announcements. We consistently had Mr Trudeau doing 3 events a day outpacing both Mr Mulcair and Mr Harper who did usually 2 events per day.

We would usually have Mr Trudeau do an announcement or a media event in the morning, then a meeting and greet event or photo op in the afternoon and a large rally in the evening.

An example of one of our announcements is the transit funding announcement we made. Below is a link to the news story about it.

http://globalnews.ca/news/2203498/liberals-promise-20-billion-to-public-transit/

This event took place at a Viva bus terminal in Richmond Hill Ontario. (Suburb North of Toronto and Viva is a privately owned bus company popular in the area) I was put in charge of ensuring people did not run into the camera shots once the event went live.

I managed to sneak in a photo of Mr Trudeau at the podium.

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After the first event we would regroup in another location typically a Hotel or perhaps on the Campaign jet before we got to the afternoon event. During that time Mr Trudeau was being briefed on the next events or he was working on debate prep.

An example of the mid day event would be, Mr Trudeau dropping by at a mini Caribana festival in Scarborough. He would often take photos with attendees and sometimes he would speak to the media.

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Usually in the evenings we would do a large rally. A rally is a event where local supporters are rallied to a single location. Media would then be invited to cover the rally and often Mr Trudeau will speak there giving an endorsement of the local candidate.

The biggest rally we did was a rally in Brampton (another suburb west of Toronto) at this rally we organized 7 000 supporters from local area and we even use the event to film a ad which can be seen below.

This rally was actually a hallmark of our campaign we did it about 3 weeks from election day right before the advance polls.

You can actually watch the entire speech right here as well;

This was what the tour team did everyday of the campaign. They just changed the variables up a bit, sometimes they would do a town hall, sometimes a rally with Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. We also did a full platform announcement with Facebook.

 

 

Liberal Party Ads

Seeing as my last two posts were about negative advertising targeting the liberal party, it is only fair I write a post about the ads that the Liberal Party put out.

From my point of view, the Liberal Party stayed far away from negative advertising. I know internally we had some debate about whether or not this was right thing to do. There was a lot of pressure from the consultants that the party had hired to use attack ads but the boss (Mr Trudeau) also gave the team a mandate not to engage in negative campaigning. At time things got quite contentious when we were really performing very poorly in the polls.

From my point of view we did stay away from negative campaigning in the 2015 campaign, but I have been told that in previous campaigns the Liberals have been just as guilty as any party in negative campaigning.

Below are some videos that some would consider negative campaigning.

This video was done as a response to the interview ad that the conservatives did targeting Mr Trudeau. I think we did it just as a response to the conservative ad and that we just didn’t want to leave that ad unanswered.

This is another video we did during the Mike Duffy trail. Fortunately for us, Mike Duffy’s trail began during the campaign and it did allow us to gain some momentum. This video was done in an attempt to capitalize on that. I don’t think it was particularly effective as public interested didn’t linger on the trail for too long.

There is another video that we did attacking Mr Harper’s economic policy. I think ad was fair game as politicians should be attack on their policies but not personally. I still rather focus on the merits of our own plans rather than simply attack theirs, I think the video would have been better had they made more of effort to contrast it with liberal records or our platform.

Here is another video we did against Mr Mulcair. We did this one as a response to Mr Mulcair not agreeing to attend any debates that Mr Harper was not at. This led to the cancelling of a woman’s issues debate. Not my favorite ad either I would have really wanted us to focus on our strengths and not the weaknesses of others, but I suppose your actions during a campaign are fair game.

 

 

 

 

 

Attack Ads (NDP)

I have never known the NDP to be a proponent of attack ads but during the election they did have a series of ads that were quite similar in style to the conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau. They had a trio of ads that were aired on the radio. (they are embedded below)

The 3 ads were similar in they had a narrator posing as a regular Canadian criticizing Justin Trudeau. I personally think it is disingenuous for a political party to air and ad with actors posing as regular Canadians. One could argue that corporations do this all the time and why is it okay for corporations to do it but not political parties. I just hold the organization that feels like they should run the country at a higher standard.

In addition to the 3 radio ads they also had a video ad which can be seen below.

This ad was very similar to the Justin is in way over his head attack ad from the conservatives. The goofy music, the quoting out of context and visual imagery is very similar to the conservative attack ads.

I was quite sadden to see this ads during the election particularly when Thomas Mulcair was quoted earlier on to saying;

“He said even if new ads were to target the NDP he won’t be doing anything except engaging in a “robust campaign.”

Even if it were to come I won’t respond in kind. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a robust debate,” Mulcair said.

“We can compare policies and compare track records. I’m not the type to have ever wanted to get involved in that sort of negative approach,” he said.

Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/07/04/mulcair-and-trudeau-wont-respond-in-kind-to-negative-conservative-ads.html

I suppose if i were to approach a NDP strategist about this they would argue that their not attack ads their simply just educating Canadians on the positions of my boss. I feel like there are more transparent ways of doing that and we can do away with the music and imagery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Attack Ads (Conservative)

I would like to first preface this blog post by saying that though I am a Liberal staffer and do generally believe in Liberal values and goals I do really have utmost admiration of those who follow politics in a non partisan way and I do my best to try to see it from their point of view. With that being said I am going to apologize in advance if the post below is too overly partisan.

Attack ads are one of the most interesting aspects of a political campaign. 2015 election had its own fair share to attack ads. From the date that Mr Trudeau won the leadership of the Liberal party the Conservative party had attack ads out the next day attack Mr Trudeau.

You can view the ad here;

They ran that attack ad for several months then they switched up to another one;

I personally believe attack ads are effective, though I cannot quote research I am certain they have been proven to be effective, but I often feel that when I speak about how effective I think attack ads are people believe I mean negative attack ads always win elections. This is not true, they are very effective but they may not always win an election.

I believe attack ads work subconsciously, people don’t explicitly remember the negative ads, but when they are speaking about the topic they often will recite the exact lines from the ad, this can have a profound effect when they are in the voting booth trying to decide who to vote for.

In the two prominate attack ads in this campaign, the first one against Mr Trudeau named “In over his head” was not particularly effective. I goal of the ad being released at the time it was, was to try to get a headstart on dictating the narrative of Mr Trudeau way before the election officially would start. It did not work because I believe Canadians already had an idea and narrative of who Mr Trudeau was, and the attempt to frame him was not subtle enough. Hence the attack ad did not affect our polling numbers quite too much.

The second attack ad that the conservative party released several months later was extremely effective. It was effective because it was very subtle. When you are watching the ad it does not feel like your watching a conservative ad but rather you are listening to a group of friends discuss Justin Trudeau. This ad had very big impact on our polling numbers it dragged its down quite and I remember at the time we as staffers were terrified and quiet worried. When I would speak to people about Mr Trudeau they would often quote the exact lines from the movie that Mr Trudeau is just not ready, and when I would inquire more they would never remember that they actually heard those lines from a conservative attack ad. That is the ad working at a subconscious level.

Campaign Jet and Bus

Campaign Jet

The campaign jet is probably one of the most iconic images of any major political party. We launched our jet several weeks into the campaign and thought it was not widely known we actually had two jets. The reason for this was it was just significantly easier to do logistics having two jets.

There was often unexpected maintenance and giving the time constraints on a campaign we could not have that slowing us down.

Below is a picture of one of the Jets before our official launch. A colleague of mine was doing the mic checks and all the standard stuff before all the attendees and the boss (Mr Trudeau) arrived. One of the jets was painted and the other was not painted.

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Interesting thing I learned about the paint on the jet was it literally took a ton of paint to do the branding and the weight of the paint had to be accounted for on the jet and everything. I thought that was quite interesting as the weight of the paint isn’t something I would have thought about.

The jet we had holds 50 passengers, 30 of them were reserved for media and the other 20 were for tour staff. Media outlets pay several thousands of dollars to have people on the jet. While they are on the jet there are staff whose main responsibility is to make sure their fed and happy.

We put a lot of effort to keeping the press happy, every time we do a news conference we often have a “media room” set up with food and an internet connection to allow for the media to be able to write and send their stories as fast as they can.

In addition to the Jets we also had several campaign buses. We had two in Ontario and Quebec, one of them was designated solely to drive the media around to all our events, the other one was for staff.

A little unveiling of the curtain, though the boss is often seen stepping off the bus when he arrives at events, he doesn’t actually travel on the bus, the RCMP actually drive him in another car and they stop ahead of the even for the boss to jump in right before the event.

LEADER bus lowres LEADER bus lowres

Source: http://www.lindsaysmail.com/project/trudeau-campaign-buses/

August 4 (Dropping of the Writs)

During the pre writ period a favourite past-time of many staffers and organizers is to speculate on when Prime Minister Stephen Harper would call the election.

My colleagues and I spent countless hours discussing when we thought the election would be dropped, explaining our rationales and defending our positions. Of course none of us had any real idea least of all me.

I had always maintained that I believed the Writ would get dropped during the Sunday of the Labour Day Weekend. I choose this date because, the several by-elections I had been part of, the writ was always dropped during a long weekend Sunday and I expected that the same would happen this time around too. Some of my colleagues agreed with me, but many of them didn’t.

The Party leadership will often suggest that their “intel” suggested that the writ would be dropped at some ridiculously early date; I had heard them tell me they heard that the writ could be dropped as early as February. I always thought that they were simply just telling us that to motivate us to get our riding organized very early.

The closer we got to the fixed election date of October 19th the more we speculated, I always maintaining that I felt the election would still be dropped the weekend of Labour Day. I remember even stating so 2 days before the actual date the election was dropped on August 4th, 2015.

I remember the weeks leading up to August 4th were interesting, our bosses were encouraging us to take vacation and they were really hammering on us that the writ would get dropped early. There were rumours that Ottawa conservative staff were taking leaves of absences and that was suggesting that the election was imminent.

Some of the more senior organizers were saying that they had conservative staffer friends who were telling them that their party leadership was telling them that the election would be early August. I did not believe them at the time but in retrospect I think they actually had legitimate insight.

The first two weeks of the election were unremarkable, business was essentially normal for us, leadership told us to pace ourselves as the election was going to be very long. First couple of projects I did were rallies and campaign office openings in Scarborough and etc. I remember thinking that the general public was not really paying attention either, and though we were officially in the election there was no urgency yet, everything felt essentially the same.

Cookie, I got as a gift from Justin's Press Secretary
Cookie, I got as a gift from Justin’s Press Secretary
Banner Background from a infrastructure announcement we did in Burlington
Banner Background from a infrastructure announcement we did in Burlington

Nominations

One of the major projects I had in my role as a party staffer was to execute nominations meetings. In order for a person to get the endorsement of the party to run in a general election we require them to be nomination by the majority of the party members of the riding that they wish to run in. This process is a nomination contest.

I worked on a team of 3 to execute the nomination meeting in Ontario. One of us would handle the paper work of reaching out to candidates and explaining the procedure to them. My other team mate was responsible for packing the require materials and getting the ballots and such things ready for the nomination. My role was to suggest locations and to execute the meeting.

Nomination were one of the more high profile projects I had. Some nominations such as the ones in the Brampton and Mississauga region of Ontario were very high profile as there were very strong candidates there able to pull big ethnic vote blocks which would often catch the eye of local news organizations.

Brampton east was one of our biggest and most hot contested nominations and below is a link to a Toronto Star article about it;

My inside view of the nomination is quite unique, I often get told a nomination needs to be called in very short noticed 3 week to 2 weeks, but luckily for me I do get a heads up on what ridings they hope to call and I can gather information from possible locations a bit in advance and get them ready.

Booking the venue for the nomination is a bit of a process, I have to research them then do a site visit and take pictures get floor plans etc and report back to my boss the  director of operations and we take a look at the venue and determine if the venue is suitable for our purposes.

When I am working with the venues to get their details and prices and etc I often have to be very careful as sometimes the venue themselves will have connects with nominations team and in-order to be fair i have to be very  coy on my intentions for the use of the space and very importantly the date as it would be unfair if one of the candidates were able to learn of the plans before hand.

The reason is often candidates teams will book a room within the facility we are renting too to have what is called a “war room” to organize out of and pull vote. Sometimes if the venue is big enough all candidates are able to have a war room in the venue, but sometimes the venue cannot accommodate all the team so I have to book all the rooms to ensure that there is an even playing field.

Once I have all the details finalized my boss calls the candidates to let them know that the nomination is occurring and close to the date I get a rental van and begin packing the paperwork and equipment we need for the meeting. I will need a lot of paper work, voters’ list, ballots, vouching forms, pens papers etc. I also often bring our mobile sound system and 10 stanchions. The stanchions were the bane of my existence as they were very heavy and difficult to move. As a result my coworkers often joke to me that I am the stanchion mobilizer or stanchion chair, which is a play on that political staffers often like fancy titles.

Stanchions
Stanchions, I spent a lot of time time moving them around the province.
We also have to recruit a team of volunteers to help with the nomination as often it is too big of a task to do ourselves. There are several roles during a nomination for volunteers. One could be a DRO which is a deputy returning officer, their responsibility is to check potential voters ID and issue ballots and track which people have voter has vote so there is no reissuing of ballots. If a potential voter does not have sufficient ID to get a ballot from a DRO they will be referred to credentials, which is a station that often manned by staff as it require the use of a computer and knowledge and access to our computer system. At the credential station we try to trouble shoot with the potential voter and figure out how we can get them to qualify for a ballot. Often is as simple as just looking them up in our data base and verifying that they are indeed in our data base, other times they may require some one to vouch for them.