NDP win Toronto-Danforth by-election as expected, Conservatives continue to play “hide and seek”
By: Bruce A Stewart
Last night’s by-election in Jack Layton’s old riding, Toronto-Danforth, came off pretty much as expected. A good turnout for a by-election on a lovely near-summery day of nearly 44 per cent saw Craig Scott, NDP, elected by just short of 60 per cent of the votes cast (and within one per cent of Jack’s own last hurrah).
Liberal Grant Gordon pulled a respectable 28.5 per cent — this is up by a good 11% on the Liberal vote in the 2011 General Election and pundits will have a field day wondering if his breaking with the “party approach” and designing his own campaign had anything to do with that.
Meanwhile the Conservative, Andrew Keyes, polled just slightly ahead of five per cent — and just slightly ahead of the Green candidate, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu who was at 4.7 per cent. The other seven candidates brought up the rear with 200 or so votes each.
The Conservatives were missing in action throughout this by-election. Certainly it wasn’t a riding they could win, but their strategy caused their vote to fall by two-thirds this time around.
It’s a strategy I’ve seen before, when I lived in Vancouver-Quadra, during the 2008 by-election there. And in the 2008 General Election. And in the 2011 General Election in my riding of Beaches-East York.
The strategy is called “hide away.” It involves refusing to be interviewed. Never going to an all-candidates’ meeting. Staying off the television and radio. No mainstreeting or working the transit stops. Never appearing anywhere you can’t totally control.
Back in 2008, Vancouver-Quadra was ready for a change. It had been Liberal for a long while — a popular MP — and the Conservatives lost it by 51 votes playing “hide and seek.” That fall we fell into the 2008 general election, and instead of learning from the experience the “hide away” game was played again, this time losing by nearly 4,000 votes. Come the 2011 General Election, same candidates, same strategy, same outcome.
Do you think there’s a pattern there?
I don’t write this to promote the Conservative Party, or to knock it down. I do think there’s a strategic blunder in play.
If you want to run for office, you actually have to get out and meet voters.
That means you will occasionally meet ones who don’t like you, or don’t like your party. There may (horror of horrors!) be a reporter for the community press, or the city paper, or radio or television there to capture the voter expressing their opinion.
It’s called democracy at the grassroots level, and it’s supposedly why you wanted to go into public life.
The Toronto-Danforth by-election got a lot of free media. An hour on TV Ontario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin”, a host who doesn’t let anyone get run over. The Conservative candidate should have been there. He wouldn’t go.
Nor did he go to all-candidates’ meetings, or work the street as did all the others.
Supporters of the Conservatives across the country are let down by behaviour like this. If it’s coming from the brain trust in central office, it’s a losing strategy.
Sure, the NDP were going to hold Jack’s riding.
The Conservatives keep making this poor an effort, they’re not going to win 2015.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blog Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right and for his daily stream of snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.