View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Rolling the Dice on a Federal Election – January 16, 2011 – Ottawa Ontario

Ottawa ON – One can hear the war drums beating as our political leaders rally their troops, test drive their campaign themes and hit the road to deliver their somewhat predictable pre-campaign rhetoric.

Of course it might all be for naught, sometimes cooler heads prevail. However, it is very difficult and expensive to turn the election machinery off once it is under way. Few realize the cost both in dollars and time to set up a nation wide campaign. At this point in time, except for some minor tinkering, campaigns should be almost push button ready.

Campaign teams will have picked their key platform policies. The election theme will have been decided. The daily script or plan for each day of the campaign will have been decided upon, messages and events to back up those plans identified, and the national leader’s tour and secondary tours planned down to the last detail. Negotiations for planes and buses will be underway and colour schemes decided upon. War room staff identified and assigned their role.

Each group of senior advisors and campaign strategists will be convinced that they will set the nation on fire with their policies and victory will be a sure thing for them. The problem of course is that the majority of these people live and work inside the Ottawa bubble. They live and work in an unreal world of hyper-partisanship where even attack or pushback lines in Question Period are celebrated as great victories.

As anyone who has been involved with elections knows, they are never textbook perfect. Sure victories have a way of slipping away, scripts don’t work, messages fail to excite the population, candidates say and do stupid things, leaders make mistakes and all of this takes place under the watchful eyes of the media.

Even your opponent’s don’t perform as predicted. They might do worse than expected, but usually they do better because partisanship tends to cloud how you see them or how you see their party. And on occasion, your opponent has a policy or performs so well that despite your best efforts to knock them of track, they capture the imagination of voters.

Guaranteed election wins don’t exist. To parphrase Brian Mulroney, it really is “a roll of the dice” when you hit the election button. That is something the partisans in all camps should keep in mind.

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.

Best WesternKAV Productions


  1. At least one camp has contracted a polling firm, I had a call (automated) the fist week of January with federal election questions. Of course, I said the Cornwall Free News Admin for a majority!

  2. As we speak, I think theres only one party ready for an election and thats the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. The others seem to be milling about under a cloud and no-one seems to know whats going on!

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