Planning an election campaign, why it matters where leaders spend their time

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In this election, Hamilton, Ontario became the City of Love.

The metropolitan area of ​​about 600,000 people at the western tip of Lake Ontario saw the leaders’ buses carrying NDP, Liberal and Conservative tours cross at least six times in the first five weeks of the campaign.

With only four ridings, Hamilton does not have the electoral bonus of Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. But depending on who you talk to, all four of Hamilton’s ridings could be on the line, and in tight races, the leader’s appearance can generate a necessary bump.

“A visit will generate growth and support for Mr. Trudeau,” said David Rodier, senior vice president of corporate communications at public relations firm Edelman and a campaign veteran who handled the logistics tour buses as a “train master” for the Liberals. in 2015 and 2019.

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“Generally speaking, I’ve always been told it was two to three percent.

Jamie Ellerton, director of Toronto-based strategic and public relations firm Conaptus and head of media relations on Andrew Scheer’s Tory Bus in 2019, said an executive visit generated more local media coverage.

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He said there are diminishing returns when leaders spend too much time in Toronto and Vancouver because the markets are so big and all the leaders are often in those cities.

“But outside of these two big cities, the impact of the tour in terms of sending a message and starting a conversation with Canadians has a huge impact on what people are talking about,” a- he declared.


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The suburbs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are, as expected, the biggest draws.

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This is also where most of the closest races are expected.

As of September 16, Trudeau had visited at least 70 ridings, including 15 in the 905 area surrounding Toronto, eight in the suburbs of Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Delta and Coquitlam, and eight on the north or south shore of Montreal.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made 56 stops, six each in 905 and suburban Vancouver, while Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole visited about three dozen ridings, including six in 905 and five in suburban Vancouver. Vancouver.

O’Toole’s campaign stops are so much shorter because he chose to make 10 announcements and hold virtual town halls from a ballroom at the Westin Hotel, a few hundred yards from the Hill of Parliament.

Ellerton said virtual events reach more people but don’t generate the same kind of media coverage or energy as an in-person stop.

“When you talk to these constituents and those who are involved with city hall, you definitely connect and you get that commitment for these people, but for a larger audience, and spread that out to a wide range of a wider audience. . , it does not translate quite the same way, ”he said.

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Ellerton said a leader’s destination is not random and stops are usually set with a lot of thought before the campaign begins. The plan can change as campaigns change the way a party is doing.

“When the Liberals are doing really well, they don’t spend too much time in Montreal,” he said. “For the Conservatives, they don’t spend too much time in Calgary or Edmonton.

“So when you start to see leaders spending a lot of time in places where they usually don’t, it means they’re looking, from a campaign strategy standpoint, to consolidate their numbers and keep those numbers. places in the lap. “

Rodier said the tour tries to get to each province once as quickly as possible at the start and to as many ridings as possible over the past week or so.


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This year, Trudeau visited six provinces in the first six days and the 10 on the ninth day. He is still the only leader to have traveled to a territory, visiting Iqaluit on August 30.

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O’Toole reached all 10 provinces on day 14.

Singh has not been to New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island since the official campaign began, but toured the week before Trudeau called the election.

Rodier also said parties have a lot of data on individual ridings and they will know full well which ones are close and can benefit from a quick photo op of the leaders. Trudeau tends to use stops in urban areas to highlight all the candidates in the area, not just one.

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Overall, the leaders haven’t changed much from what their expected tour stops would be. Trudeau is mainly in the suburbs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. O’Toole spends the most time in 905 and in and around Quebec City.

Singh seems more focused on the Windsor area, where the NDP lost two seats in 2019, as well as the center Liberal seats in Toronto. He also spends a lot of time in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, where his own headquarters are located.

He is the only chief to have made more than one visit to his own riding of Burnaby South. Trudeau visited his Montreal constituency of Papineau on the afternoon he called the election, while O’Toole did not go to his constituency of Durham at all.

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Green Party leader Annamie Paul holds the campaign record in her own riding. the quarrels continue.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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