I hope you all got a chance to catch Stephen Harper's Throne Speech today. If I was him, god forbid, I'd be feeling pretty good about it tonight. Bouncing around like the clown in that picture. It all came together so well. It was short, it was simple, the gorgeous Michaelle Jean read it instead of that stuffy Adrienne Clarkson. And when it was over even Jack Layton was singing his praises. Lordy I thought. How brilliant. Why hasn't anybody ever done this before?
It was just another photo-op in Harper's campaign for a majority government. One with a cast of thousands including wounded soldiers from Afghanistan, and a Chinese-Canadian old enough to have paid a head tax. But as much as I hate to say it, I couldn't have choreographed it better myself.
Ever since the beginning of the last election campaign the Conservatives have understood that if you want to communicate on television, you have to keep it short, focused and simple. The Liberals drowned their message by flooding people with too much information and too many promises. The NDP muddied their message by failing to focus on the big picture. And of course by failing to present themselves as a party ready to govern. In television it isn't just what you say, but how you say it that counts.
If you want to counter this simple message you have to reply with a simple message of your own. One that plays into a larger message. One as simple as black and white.
Take the child care issue for example... You start with a crying single mother with a sad looking child. " Mary was hoping little Alice would have a chance at a better life." (cut to picture of beautiful new daycare facility full of happy smiling kids) "She was hoping the new Canadian Childcare plan would give her that chance. But Stephen Harper scrapped it and gave the money away. Now she must choose between this kind of care" (cut to scene of filthy daycare, with sad kids tied to chairs, and concentration camp guards) "Or staying at home." (cut to last poignant scene of mother and child --except now the child's crying) "Don't let the Conservatives hurt our children. Stop them before it's too late."
Or over shot of idyllic Toronto scene with clean dignified poor man going into a beautiful city housing home. "Once upon a time governments used to build homes for homeless people. But then Mike Harris turned it over to the private sector so now we have none"(shot of park teeming with scruffy and dangerous homeless people leering at mothers with little children) "Now Stephen Harper wants to do the same with the Canadian childcare program" (over pictures of beautiful daycare centre) "So soon we'll have this." (pictures of concentration camp daycare centre) "Save our Canadian childcare program. Don't let Harper hurt our kids."
Or the marijuana issue... Over pictures of a young teenage boy being led into jail down a corridor with leering inmates rubbing their crotches and blowing kisses "Stephen Harper wants to send Canadian kids to jail for smoking a joint. When we could save our kids and still hit the criminals hard." (shot of lecherous goon being clubbed by guards) "Don't let Harper hurt our kids" (over picture of boy sobbing in his cell while monstrous tattooed inmates line up outside) " We're Canadians, not Americans. We don't do that."
Or the gun registry issue... Start with indignant police officer with wife and young baby. "Stephen Harper wants me to risk my life just to make gun collectors happy." (cut to picture of dangerous looking redneck, with a confederate flag t-shirt, and a gun collection big enough to stop a German panzer division. And these guys playing in the background.) "And give criminals a place to steal guns from and kill" (camera pans away from the redneck to show a group of dangerous looking black gang members casing the joint) "Don't let Harper kill our police officers, and threaten our families. Tell him gun control is the Canadian way.Stop him before it's too late."
I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture.... And can come up with something better. As long as you remember that the medium is the message. And the simpler and more focused that message the better. Now I know the Conservatives get it. And so does the City of Montreal.
Compare that ad with the one Toronto puts out to sell itself as an intimate metropolis.
Hmm..... see what I mean...
Montreal's message is simple and clear. Come to the city and have a dirty old time. Toronto's message on the other hand seems to be come to the city and have calamari shermoula or stand on a corner and listen to a saxophonist. Or if you are really desperate go watch these elves. All four excruciating hours of them.
Now really people... I admit I'm biased, but which city would you rather visit? Oh French me mon amour, I'm dying for love!
Yes folks let's face it. Right now, just like Montreal, the Conservatives are winning the television campaign hands down. If the other parties don't understand that, and do something about it, they might as well give up.
And just wait for a Harper majority.
As for the rest of us poor fuckers, especially those in Toronto.
We might as well grab some calamari shermoula, whatever that is...
Stand on a street corner and wait for that saxophonist to show up.
Or just go grope an elf....