Andrew Tumilty: Trudeau can still win — no, really. Here's how
Roll out some regional advertising that shows how much families are saving or receiving through child care or the child benefit.
By: Andrew Tumilty
Pierre Poilievre and his Conservative party look more and more like the government in waiting. According to a recent article by Althia Raj in the Toronto Star, it seems many of the Liberal MPs attending this week’s caucus retreat in London, Ontario, feel the same way.
With the polls against him and a small, albeit open, revolt in his caucus, time is the best friend that Justin Trudeau has right now. The next federal election is far enough in the future that Trudeau and the Liberal party have the time they need to turn their electoral fortunes around and win the next election.
This is not blind optimism, relying on the adage that says “a week is a lifetime in politics.” The Liberals cannot win by counting on a Conservative implosion or any other circumstances largely beyond their own control.
So how do they win? By looking to one of the greatest champions in sport for inspiration, Muhammed Ali.
In 1974, Ali fought George Foreman, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. Foreman was younger, one of the most powerful punchers ever, and unlike Ali, had not lost years of his career because of his opposition to America’s war in Vietnam.
Few people ahead of the fight gave Ali much of a chance, and many thought his best fights were behind him. Sound familiar?
For seven rounds, Ali danced, dodging Foreman’s punches as best he could, while leaning against the ropes and taking many blows. In the eighth round, everyone watching finally realized what Ali was doing.
Ali sees his moment in Foreman’s tired eyes and, in an incredibly quick sequence, gets off the ropes, hits Foreman with a lightning quick combination of punches, and watches him fall to the mat.
He let Foreman punch himself out. He exhausted a stronger opponent and launched a devastating counterattack when it would be most effective. This strategy has been known ever since as the “rope-a-dope.”
Liberals can spend the next 18 months letting Poilievre punch himself out on anger and outrage, while they focus on what got them a win the first time … hope.
In this case, hope needs to be every bit as practical as it is ethereal. The Liberals have three issues that suit their brand but can also be framed in tangible economic terms for families: the Canada Child Benefit, $10-a-day child care, and climate change.
There is an emotional angle to each of these; bouncing babies and burning forests lend themselves to pushing emotional buttons. What’s been missing is the economic connection that makes clear the costs and benefits to individual families at a household level.
Leading up to the next election, Liberals can focus squarely on what these issues mean to the budgets of average families. These are wins for bottom lines, and Liberals shouldn’t be shy about saying so.
Roll out some regional advertising that shows how much families are saving or receiving through child care or the child benefit. Translate those numbers into something tangible, whether it’s the cost of one week’s groceries or a month’s worth of diapers. Calculate the costs of a flooded basement or burned-out house, and compare those costs to what carbon taxes cost the average family, after the rebate.
Poilievre will continue to throw punches and attack Liberals over any number of issues. They need to stay focused on showcasing child care, the Canada Child Benefit, and climate change, refusing to give oxygen to anything else Poilievre talks about … until the election campaign.
Ahead of the election, that is when it’s time for the counterpunch. Having built up the economic case for these issues, having made them tangible to Canadian families, that is when every ad and talking point needs to focus on how Pierre Poilievre will cost Canadian families money.
Talk about how Pierre will end the agreements with provinces for $10-a-day child care, make cuts to the Canada Child Benefit, and without a credible plan for climate change, how he will risk costing Canadians millions in damages to their homes.
None of these programs will be theoretical by the time of the next election. Liberals can make the case that Poilievre is going to cancel or cut programs that will have put real money in families’ pockets for years.
If Justin Trudeau wants one more election win, the greatest fighter of all time showed him how to step into the ring against someone no one thinks you can beat, and walk out a champion.
Andrew Tumilty has crafted strategic communications and advice for local Liberal candidates and central party campaigns. He is a senior consultant for strategic communications and issues management with Enterprise Canada in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewTumilty
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