To some it may look like the Conservatives’ recent lead in the election came out of nowhere, but to those watching closely, the momentum is less surprising. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has meticulously prepared for this election from the moment he became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Conservatives released their platform, Canada’s Recovery Plan, on day two of the campaign. The platform has been the source of daily announcements highlighting key planks of this well-researched, comprehensive plan. O’Toole has been effective at communicating his platform’s core themes, including this 60 second summary video.
The Conservatives also took digital campaigning seriously this round. While the other leaders have spent their time producing TikTok videos and trying to get people to “personally text the leader,” the Conservatives made a significant investment in a multimedia studio to record key messages such as O’Toole’s address on the Afghanistan situation, running regular virtual town halls, and connecting with candidates and campaign teams.
As we enter the home stretch of the election, how can O’Toole’s Conservatives capitalize on their early campaign success? Here are three steps they can take:
1. Focus on authentic conservatism
At its core, conservatism is all about the potential of the individual. As the world changes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Toole’s plan is centred on a clear understanding of the challenges faced by everyday Canadians.
With policies like restoring one million jobs, protecting workers’ pensions, financial security for gig-economy workers and a national mental health action plan, O’Toole is focussed on getting Canada’s economy back on track, while staying close to core conservative principles.
2. Take the high road against opposition wedge issues that continue to fall flat
The Trudeau Liberals are trying to run the “stop the Conservatives” playbook they use in every election. Thus far, it may not be working, in part because O’Toole has been prepared for the attacks and is showing his homework. As the Liberals spend time and energy inventing new twists on tired wedge issues, we may be seeing that old arguments just aren’t working anymore. The Conservative leader and his candidates need to stay the course and avoid Liberal attempts to divert them from their main messages of jobs, accountability, mental health, the economy and securing the country.
3. Stay disciplined
What matters most in an election campaign is connecting directly with voters, identifying supporters, and swaying those accessible undecideds into your camp. If the O’Toole Conservatives can keep their eye on the prize and eliminate distractions, they will continue to punch through.
What do the numbers say?
Counsel’s Poll at the beginning of the election was among the first to show the race was tightening between the Liberals and Conservatives. Our large-sample polling goes deeper than the national horse race. We view the data from the perspective of a political strategist and seek to understand the views of valuable swing voters.
Campaigns are dynamic, and the results can change over the course of just a few days. But what motivates this change? What can political parties do to influence this movement?
Answering these questions is the key to victory – and requires finding the voters who are most likely to make the switch, and understanding who they are, where they live, and what they care about.
O’Toole’s swing voters
Who they are:
Our poll indicates the demographic the Conservatives are most likely to make gains with are males, particularly those between the ages of 35 and 54. The profile of a Conservative swing voter is also typically employed full-time, and is a member of a union – which could explain O’Toole’s dogged focus on labour and workers’ issues. This voter is also likely to have children under the age of 18 living in their home and identify as a visible minority.
Where they live:
Our poll identified five key areas the Conservatives are most likely to grow their vote share: urban Alberta, Manitoba, southwestern Ontario, eastern Quebec and Atlantic Canada. We will be watching to see if O’Toole spends the second half of the campaign on the offense in these regions.
What they care about:
As identified in our issues poll, Conservative swing voters care about cost of living, the COVID-19 pandemic response, jobs, and housing affordability – issues that have all been addressed by O’Toole early in the campaign.
Team O’Toole has shown it is disciplined and understands the issues their supporters and potential supporters care about. More importantly, Mr. O’Toole has done a good job looking and sounding like a leader in waiting who cares about the problems facing everyday Canadians.
So far, team blue has made all the right moves, but a week is a lifetime in politics and, as the saying goes, the only poll that truly matters is the one on election day. Counsel’s multi-partisan federal team is closely following the developments in the campaign so that we can provide you with analysis and data you need to ensure you’re covered, regardless of the election’s outcome.
Insights by Amber Ruddy, Associate Vice President, Western Canada and David Murray, Senior Consultant, Federal Advocacy and Polling.
Amber is a dynamic government relations and communications practitioner with a decade of experience in business advocacy. She worked for a federal Conservative cabinet minister, an Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament, and for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Amber was elected by Conservative Party of Canada members as a National Councillor in March 2021.
David understands opposition politics and served as a senior advisor in Conservative Research Group, where he provided communications and research support to the Conservative caucus in the House of Commons. David became the Conservative Party of Canada’s National Pollster for the 2019 Canadian General Election. He has an intimate understanding of how political leaders calculate their next moves, and the voter coalitions each party needs to achieve their electoral goals.