Cornwall ON – Was it worthwhile for Ignatieff to spend the summer riding a bus? I would say so for a few reasons.
First he did get quite a bit of exposure and if not always from the national media, certainly with regional and local news outlets. These local reporters represent good connections for your communication team to build on in the months ahead.
Second, media coverage for an opposition party in the summer is almost impossible to obtain. However, with media travelling with him, Ignatieff was able to comment on almost a daily basis on the latest Conservative attempt to knee-cap themselves. This earned the Liberals more media coverage than if they were running out MPs as spokespersons. It also provided ammunition to cheer up Liberal supporters and volunteers. And make no mistake about it; these folks are the backbone of any political party during an election. Revitalizing their spirits was a necessary step before forcing an election.
Ignatieff also showed he can hang in there and recover from a set back. His tour was the laughing stock of Canada after the first day’s mishaps, but by the end of the summer the tour had recovered sufficiently to earn decent marks from the press. The Liberal leader had to impress the media enough to at least get them to water down their criticism of him. Judging by media comments on the tour wrap up, that objective was largely achieved.
The difficulty of course will be to translate this tour into votes. His tour won’t change a single vote of any die hard partisan out there. But you don’t win elections on partisan votes alone. You need votes from that broad political middle ground in Canada and all he had to do on this tour was appear to be a credible alternative to Harper. His tour won’t result in any over night ground shaking movement of votes, but it will be one small step in moving middle of the road voters away from the Conservatives and towards the Liberals.
The Tories will not have an easy fall session once the House resumes sitting. The census issue will come back to bite them, as will the Veterans Ombudsman issue and of course there will be the contentious vote on the long gun registry. And let us not forget the Nortel pensioners who will be losing some of their medical coverage as well as part of their financial package in a few weeks. You can bet they will be vocal about this and so they should be.
All in all a credible tour that will help to revitalize Liberal spirits while serving notice to the Conservatives that they can expect a rough session in September.
Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.