Monday, February 24, 2014

Build a hi-tech Trojan Horse you dummies!

Good Day Readers:

It's amusing how the Harper government is blowing off the Toronto Star's leak of their 2015 election strategy but what if a family of moles has indeed invaded the Party's inner sanctum? How ironic given its obsession for secrecy bordering on paranoia.

Part of the master plan is to role out Laureen Harper through a video series to compensate for her b-o-r-i-n-g, cold fish, humourless husband. When was the last time the Prime Minister said something so funny you doubled over in laughter peeing yourself in the process?

Laureen 24 Eleven? Don't think so. The current version is an unmitigated disaster losing half it's audience weekly because it's so, that's right you guessed it, b-o-r-i-n-g.

CyberSmokeBlog's Plan to Resuscitate the Conservatives

Go ahead laugh as you will but build a hi-tech Trojan Horse it worked for the ancient Greeks didn't it? Campaign election spending is not an issue ... right?

The Plan

(1) The project must be top secret so call in the RCMP, CSIS and CSEC

(2) Build a camouflaged warehouse in the backyard of 24 Sussex Drive using government tradespersons. If necessary it can later be explained away as a youth make work project

(3) Construct a large wooden Trojan Horse with unmarked mobile transporter jammed with the latest communications equipment

(4) Construct a baby Trojan Horse exclusively for Laureen Harper

(4) Repaint the Air Harper plane and one of the challenger jets midnight black re-configuring the interiors so they can accommodate Big Trojan and little Trojan respectively

Operationalizing The Plan

(1) Under cover of darkness stuff Big Trojan with all the Conservatives running in a particular area packing just enough food and water for their survival. Ventilation is optional

(2) Land Big Trojan at a major city's airport on a special runway removed from public view. Have an ancient (how apropos) repainted, (black naturally), unmarked Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter at the ready

(3) Transport the load to a major high volume traffic area. In the case of Winnipeg that might include the intersection of Portage and Main or perhaps The Forks

(4) After Big Trojan has changed it's load of candidates it's on to the next location

(5) Follow up with Laureen Harper in little Trojan. Repeat the protocol as you move across Canada

Great idea don't you think Justin Trudeau? Sure beats those boring television ads!

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Some Conservatives don't buy Star leak story, just looking at long game to win

By Mark Burgess and Abbas Rana
Monday, February 24, 2014
Election strategy: Conservative Party Executive Director Dimitri Soudas made a presentation to the party's national council earlier this month in Toronto outlining a strategy to get Prime Minister Stephen Harper re-elected in the next election. (The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright)

Some Conservatives don’t buy the explanation given for how internal party strategy documents made it to The Toronto Star earlier this month, a senior Conservative source said, and they’re worried such breaches could become more common.

While Tories contacted for this article were unfazed by the content of the leaked documents, the leak itself was worrisome.

“The concern is more about the leak than the substance, just how it got out,” a Conservative source told The Hill Times on a not-for-attribution basis.

A 70-page slideshow presentation the Conservative Party’s executive director, Dimitri Soudas, delivered to its national council earlier this month at a downtown Toronto hotel and other documents were sent anonymously to The Toronto Star on February 9. The paper immediately broke several stories outlining the contents in what made for fascinating reading for those outside the Conservative bubble.

Rumours about the leak’s origin have circulated since the documents landed in a Star inbox. Some speculated the leak was planned but reporter Susan Delacourt dismissed that in a blog post, as did public editor Kathy English in a February 14 piece explaining why the paper reported on the documents. Ms. English said the Conservatives told the Star not to publish the material, saying it was stolen, and considered going to court to stop publication.

Others speculated there was a mole within the party, but The Globe and Mail reported that Mr. Soudas dismissed this claim in a meeting with the party caucus after the leaked documents were reported on. The paper reported that Conservative sources blamed the leak on someone with access to a computer used by the Conservative Party’s national council for a meeting at a Toronto hotel.

A Conservative source confirmed this version to The Hill Times, saying two computers were used at the conference for projecting and printing. It was clear where the documents came from, the source said, because all those files were only ever together on those two computers.

But another Conservative wasn’t convinced by this explanation and was concerned about a leak from inside.
Most of the Conservatives the source talked to don’t believe the explanation offered by the party, either, the source said.

“No, I don’t [believe the explanation]. I would never use an in-house computer for something like that. It defies logic. If they did, they need a new technology person,” the source said.

The Harper Conservatives are known for strong message discipline and tight control by the upper echelons of the party. The source said Conservative insiders are concerned that if these leaks become an ongoing practice, it could damage the party.

The reason for the leak, according to Conservative insiders the source spoke to, is that the party has been in power for about eight years and over time, like any other party, individuals have developed “grudges”; with the possibility of a leadership campaign before or after the next federal election, these leaks could become even more frequent.

“The longer you’re in power, the more internal fights and grudges that build up. It’s inevitable. After you’ve been around for about eight years, it’s personalities and conflicts and all that stuff. As we go further down the road, we’re going to see some leadership jockeying taking place,” the source said.

Former Conservative strategists were unfazed by the content of the documents, saying there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in the strategy outlined in the 70-plus pages—except that it was all written down and shared in the national media.

“The main thing that jumped out at me was who was stupid enough to put it in writing?” said Keith Beardsley, a former Deputy Chief of Staff in Stephen Harper’s PMO, now a Partner at True North Public Affairs, in an interview.

“I guess I can’t fathom that someone would put that in writing.”

Otherwise, Mr. Beardsley called the documents a “standard game plan,” containing nothing particularly exciting, shocking or surprising. The type of discussion revealed in the leaks is “almost generic to any political party” a couple of years ahead of an election, he said.

Michele Austin, a Senior Adviser at Summa Strategies and a former Chief of Staff to Conservative Cabinet Ministers, also didn’t find anything too revealing in the reports.

Page 2 of 4

“It just reconfirmed everything that we’ve been talking about, that this is the long game, that Harper isn’t going anywhere, we’re entrenched, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure we get out the vote and keep everybody here and keep the majority. I didn’t find any of it surprising,” she said in an interview.

The documents lay out a quarter-by-quarter blueprint for 2014 to prepare for the 2015 election, the Star reported. The goal? “Ensure we don’t wake up on October 20, 2015 with Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.”

The strategy features a “renewed focus” on communications, including “rapid response” and using strategists to be “proactive in the news,” the Star cited the documents as saying. The communications goal is to drive the party’s narrative contrasting Mr. Harper’s “strong, stable leadership” and Mr. Trudeau’s “poor judgment” through rallies with Mr. Harper and Cabinet ministers, a greater online presence and a grassroots focus.

This would begin at the Liberals’ biennial convention last weekend, where Conservatives would try to drive the narrative that Mr. Trudeau lacks judgment and is in over his head, including gimmicks like distributing Trudeau rolling papers to reinforce the idea the Liberal leader only cares about legalizing marijuana.

In an interview last week, Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski (Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Saskatchewan) wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the leaked documents because he said even if the documents are authentic, he finds it inappropriate to comment on internal party strategy.

He declined to comment on why his party appears to be more concerned about Mr. Trudeau.

“In my riding, I will not be paying any more attention to one particular candidate over the other. I’ll be trying to convince the constituents of Moosejaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan that I would be the best representative for them and I concentrate on trying to win my particular election, not on what my opponents may or may not be doing,” Mr. Lukiwski said.

Conservative MP Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, Alberta) said he had not seen the documents. However, he speculated that if his party’s national strategy is indeed more concerned about the Liberals, it could be because they’ve won federal elections whereas the official opposition New Democrats have not.

Mr. Goldring said that the NDP’s key electoral victories in the last federal election were in the province of Quebec, and said it’s highly unlikely they would win back all the seats. He said that if some of the NDP-held seats swing to the Liberals, Mr. Trudeau’s party could become a formidable force in the next election.

The documents did not mention Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair.

NDP caucus chair Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, British Columbia) said that contrary to the Conservative Party’s wishes, the next federal election is going to be between the New Democrats and the Harper Conservatives.

“[Mr. Mulcair] dominated the Question Period over the course of the fall [sitting of Parliament] and the Conservatives’ biggest concern is that if it becomes a fight between Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper, they can’t win that fight,” said Mr. Julian.

He said the documents failing to mention Mr. Mulcair is a ploy to distract the public.

“It’s an interesting ploy that the Conservatives are using and the journalists I’ve talked to can see through it,” said Mr. Julian.

He said the three Liberal leaders before Mr. Trudeau all enjoyed extended honeymoons in the polls before faltering.

“I’ve been an MP for 10 years. I saw Mr. Martin spike up when he became prime minister. I saw Mr. Dion spike up, I saw Mr. Ignatieff spike up. Every time there was a new Liberal leader, there was a spike up and people said, ‘Oh, gosh, this person is going to win.’ And what happened, inevitably—all of the problems, a sense of entitlement, all of the difficulties that the Liberal Party has were eventually exposed. People chose other parties,” he said.

According to an online poll of 1,034 Canadians by Ipsos-Reid-CTV released late last week, Liberals are leading the pack with 37 per cent support followed by the Conservatives with 29 per cent and the NDP at 24 per cent. The poll, which was conducted between February 14-18, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Mr. Beardsley wasn’t surprised that the emphasis was on Mr. Trudeau in the documents.

Page 3 of 4

“You go after the one who seems to be rising and Trudeau’s the one,” he said. “He’s got a different approach to politics, at least on the surface, and he’s engaging. So he just becomes your target and over the next two years your aim is to at least knock his support down or have people question [him].”

Some of the broader strategy The Star reported includes connecting Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Centre, Alberta) more to people and leveraging his wife, Laureen, including through a “With Mrs. Harper” video series.

“You have to use the assets you have and she’s an asset, so put her out front and centre,” Ms. Austin said.
Mr. Beardsley said the discussions on Ms. Harper’s role have been taking place for years.

“She can certainly soften the image,” he said. “The Prime Minister comes across as stern. It’s unfortunate that his public profile isn’t the same as his private one but he comes across like that and she can certainly soften the image. She appeals to a broad spectrum of people.”

With the Harpers’ two kids getting older, Ms. Harper probably has some more freedom to get involved in politics, Ms. Austin said.

“I’m not sure she’ll be able to go out and convert people but she’s certainly, where voters waver, just send Laureen into the crowd and they come back into the fold. She’s much more of a people person,” she said.

Mr. Soudas outlined three priorities in the documents: raise more money, increase the Conservative vote, and motivate more volunteers, The Star reported, and the party plans to develop its war room this spring.
The documents laid out a strategy to create a “Conservative digital nation,” which involves ads on Facebook, YouTube promoted videos, Google ads, and Twitter Card buys and hashtag campaigns.

It includes a new donation page for mobile devices and a new conservative.ca website with “landing pages” to draw people in with issues before engaging them as donors, volunteers or voters. The Star used the example of a page on the Conservative site headlined, “Stop giving heroin to addicts,” which outlines its position on safe injection sites and says a Liberal or NDP government “would make this heroin-for-addicts program permanent,” asking readers to “stand with us” and sign up.

The documents also describe plans to scrape information from other sites to identify supporters. The example used in The Star article is a Facebook post by conservative Ottawa radio personality Lowell Green of CFRA that received 55 “likes”; the party was able to identify 38 constituents from the page, five of whom were current members or donors, which meant the other 33 “would be a ‘warm contact’ for engagement.”

The documents also showed the Tories looking to incorporate social media into election-day strategy. The party plans to use a Facebook application to “‘position an object in front of a precise group of people (defined by us)’ and ask the question: ‘Have you voted yet?’” The Star reported. Those who haven’t voted can then be targeted directly by phone while those who have will receive a badge their “friends” will see that says, “I Have Voted, Have you?” the article says.

Chad Rogers, a former Conservative staffer who’s now a partner with Crestview Strategy, said the Conservatives have always been ahead with digital tools and that the other parties are working hard to catch up, especially Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals.

“I think the Conservatives are rightly deciding to raise their game and do the stuff that elected Barack Obama,” he said.

Mr. Beardsley said the election day Facebook strategy is just a modern extension of get-out-the-vote strategies.

The documents show the party is still working on replacing its “constituency information management system” (CIMS) database with a new system called CVote. The Star reported the Conservatives are working on upgrading CIMS and syncing it with CVote.

There was also information regarding how the Conservatives are adapting to the riding redistribution that will see 30 news ones contested in 2015. The Tories are speeding up nominations to help incumbents in nomination challenges and to “tap into parliamentary resources where possible,” The Star said. The party is developing “incumbency tactics” to help sitting MPs and will use touring Cabinet ministers to get regional organizers on board, the Toronto daily reported.

Page 4 of 4

Mr. Lukiwski said that his party has not made a final decision on whether they want to hold the nominations of incumbent MPs first or not. But he confirmed Mr. Soudas consulted Conservative MPs to get their input on when to hold nomination contests.
“Certainly, the party’s been very, very good about that. Dimitri Soudas, who is the new Executive Director, has spoken with all MPs, asked for their opinions and their advice as to the timing of when a nomination could or should be held. So, they’re taking all of that information into consideration before making a final decision,” said Mr. Lukiwski who will run in the newly created riding of Moosejaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan, Saskatchewan with his old riding eliminated in the redistribution.

Mr. Beardsley said this is the difficulty with open nominations - balancing the interests of challengers and strong MPs.

“Your better MPs are usually the busiest ones and have the least amount of time to spend in their ridings organizing,” he said.

Parties can help incumbents by limiting the amount of time to sign up new members and by raising the MP’s profile in the House of Commons, he said.

The documents also describe the need to rebuild relationships with the party caucus. “We need to rebuild confidence with caucus from the PMO and HQ,” Soudas’s presentation said, according to The Star.

Mr. Beardsley said this goes back to the much-discussed crisis within the Tory caucus last year following revelations that Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, paid suspended Conservative Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to cover his housing expense claims. The PMO has been looking to re-establish trust, Mr. Beardsley said.

“Caucus always gets nervous when they see things going wrong or if they see negative headlines. It’s a normal reaction for any politician who relies on the public for their job, so I think it’s a matter of PMO reaching out and reassuring caucus that they’re on the ball, they know what they’re doing, and they’re listening,” he said.

This becomes easier as an election approaches, bringing the team together, he said, with caucus feeding concerns from members’ ridings more into the PMO and to the party.

“Your survival depends on each other so as the election closes in you will get some people who will get nervous but at the same point you realize that you’ve got the guy who’s leading you, you better line up behind him and offer whatever advice you can but you’re on the same team so start playing,” Mr. Beardsley said.

mburgess@hilltimes.com
arana@hilltimes.com

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