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Political Debates: Will they deliver the knock-out punch?

Almost every organization needs to advocate with stakeholders – government and others.  That requires strategic, thoughtful communications. The federal election will determine who forms the next government so it’s a great time to tune in. Scout Communications is here to help assemble and execute your post-election game plan to achieve your goals with expert advocacy communications.

The political campaigns are in full swing and every day there is more news.  As I wrote last week, the Conservatives and the NDP have released their full platforms. Just last Sunday, the Liberals unveiled their climate platform.  Now voters focused on the environment have the tools to compare the three mainstream parties’ climate plans to make informed voting decisions. 

Unusual Times

But also of note was the fact that the start of Sunday’s event in Cambridge, Ontario, where the climate policies were released, the Liberal campaign was forced to delay Trudeau’s appearance by an hour due to disruptive protestors. As the CBC reported, it was the second time in a week that a Liberal campaign event was disrupted by protestors “shouting obscenities, uttering death threats against the prime minister and hurling racist and misogynist insults at people of colour and women in his protective detail.”  On Friday, an event in Bolton was cancelled over safety concerns due to angry anti-vaccine protesters at the event.

It seems we’ve entered a chapter in Canadian politics that is, dare we use the hackneyed phrase, unprecedented. We’re accustomed to protestors at political speeches and events. Who can forget the ‘Days of Action’ in the 1990’s occasioned by Mike Harris’ Common Sense Revolution in Ontario.  But things seem different this campaign. No doubt the leaders will continue to be dogged by protestors.  Hard to say what the eventual impact will be on the campaign.  Will there be a shift to more virtual events than is already the case?  And what will the tumult at rallies and in-person events mean for the upcoming leader debates?  

Next up – Political Debates

The next phase of the campaign ramp up ushers in a series of debates that get underway next week. The five major party leaders will meet in two official debates.  The French-language debate will air September 8 from 8 to 10 pm EDT and the English-language debate will follow the next day on September 9 from 9 to 11 pm EDT.  

Debates are an important part of the election process.  They give voters an opportunity to hear from candidates and leaders directly, and assess everything about them – from their hair cut and personality, to their ability to handle pressure and be genuine.  Observers, political pundits and junkies are glued to the debates, looking to declare a winner. 

In addition to bigger, flashier party leader debates, there will also be local candidate debates held in individual ridings.  I wouldn’t suggest attending them all – that’s just not necessary. However, choosing one that is hosted by a group or association that you are comfortable with is a good investment of time. 

During the debate you’ll see the candidates unfiltered and answering questions off-the-cuff (although they have rehearsed). This is where their priorities, intelligence, personality and compassion are on display. 

As a business person and observer, you want to get a sense of what makes these people tick.  When you see them in action, you can ask yourself:  are they approachable? do they understand the community and its challenges? will they be a strong advocate on Parliament Hill?

The media and pundits love a debate that results in a ‘knock-out punch’ or has a clear winner.  That rarely happens.  A ‘winner’ doesn’t always seem obvious when you’re in the room and frankly, while it can make the debate seem more exciting, it adds little to the campaign process or to your understanding of the issues and candidates. If you like how someone debated the issues but they weren’t declared the debate winner – so what? It’s the vote that counts.

The candidates standing in front of you at those debates could someday be an advocate for your business, an ally in a crisis, and/or an access point to new markets or customers, so it’s important to consider this as you watch the debates. 

Even meeting the candidates on the campaign trail can help serve your business when the dust settles and the election is completed. When you meet your new MP, wouldn’t this be a great opening line, helping get you off on the right foot to influence the next four years:  “I saw you at the debate and liked what you said about…” 

Check your local listings and make time to see your local candidates debating.  And get ready to watch the party leaders debate next week.  The way this campaign is shaping up, the debates may be even more important than usual.  There might even be a ‘knockout punch’! 

With extensive experience managing policy issues and successfully advocating for government policy changes, Scout Communications helps you harness the power of communication to achieve your objectives.  Let’s have a conversation on how Scout Communications can drive outcomes. Contact us today.