Opinion: How Canada found an antidote to Lynton Crosby’s venom

By Lisa Chang

Lynton Crosby’s wedge strategies and dog whistle politics helped unpopular conservative prime ministers in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to retain power. But the ‘Lizard of Oz’ failed so miserably in Canada, that his partner Mark Textor had to launch a social media offensive to revise history and create a narrative where their firm Crosby|Textor never played a part in Stephen Harper’s campaign. Why were Canadian voters able to break this legendary spin wizard’s dark spells when their commonwealth cousins couldn’t?

Before Crosby came into the picture, the Tory message was simple: “Things aren’t perfect, but they could be much worse under an untried and untested leader. ISIS is taking over the world, but we can protect you from Jihadist terrorism. The global economy is crumbling, but the Canadian economy is doing well except for a ‘discrete sectoral downturn’.”

Harper’s team soon realized that this message was as ineffective as the attack ads reminding us of Justin Trudeau’s nice hair played ad nauseam on TV.

Canadians voters were desiring change, and they were looking for a leader who could usher in that change. They were not looking for someone to “stay the course.”

Then there was the small matter of the Duffy trial, where the dirty laundry of the Prime Minister’s Office was being aired for the Canadian electorate to see.

Just what do you do when your campaign is at best uninspiring and at worst being undone by $90,000 cheque?

Cue Lynton Crosby.

Orchestrated by the master of dark arts, Harper and his henchmen began ratcheting up the race rhetoric and hate hysteria. The new message coming out of the blue camp was not subtle: “We are the old stock Canadians who speak perfect unaccented English. They’re niqab-clad Muslim #peoplelikenenshi who engage in barbaric cultural practices. We’re already under siege and Liberals and NDP will let 125 million more of them into Canada and establish Sharia courts in Saskatchewan. But we’ll set up a snitchline for you to report your hummus eating neighbours.”

The dirty tricks seemed to be working. Conservatives, who were languishing in third place, suddenly surged to take the lead. Then, all of a sudden, Lynton Crosby mysteriously aborted the mission and abandoned the Conservatives just days before the election.

Why did Crosby decide to cut the losses and retreat to try and protect his brand?

The language of fear and hate resonated with Harper’s base. But it also scared the living daylights of everyone else. Historians started seeing parallels between Tories’ Barbaric Practices Act and the Nazi’s Malicious Practices Act in terms of the culture of denunciation the acts were intended to create. Twitter exploded with messages of support for #peoplelikenenshi. A growing chorus of intellectual voices warned of the dangers of the Conservatives’ race baiting.

Advanced polling days rolled by, and a record number of voters flocked to the polling booths overwhelming Elections Canada staff in many parts of other country.

Election night handed the Liberals a stunning victory, and the Conservatives a stinging defeat. But the number popular votes received by Conservatives only fell fractionally from 5.8 million in 2011 to 5.6 million in 2015. But the anti-Harper vote increased dramatically, from 8.9 million in 2011 to 11.9 million in 2015.

The antidote to Lynton Crosby brand venom that Harper’s Tories were banking on to poison the political climate and win the election turned out to be the higher voter turnout. The long lines at polling places laid waste to the best laid plans of Crosby and the Tories.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke famously said.

On October 19, the good people of Canada did something to prevent evil from triumphing. They voted.

9 Responses to Opinion: How Canada found an antidote to Lynton Crosby’s venom

  1. Jeremy from England says:

    Congratulations, Canada, for defeating this spawn of the devil. You have shown the rest of the commonwealth how to counter his campaigns based around fear and hate.

    Thank you.

    • Werner says:

      Trust me when I tell you it was our pleasure. Harper’s/Conservative’s base (30%) was and is rock solid. (There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.) It was therefore vital to diminish voter apathy amongst the rest. I thank the powers that be, as well as the movement by several groups, that helped inspire the electorate to get out there and make their voices count for something good. There are still many evils in the world to deal with but for the first time in ten years I believe Canada has been taken off that list (for me, at least) and a darkness has been lifted from my heart. May Harper slither back under the rock he came from.

    • Lar says:

      Early in the election, I noticed and I am sure many noticed that Harper’s politics had a similarity to fascism. So of course, many of us, made this unusual similarity open to Canadian’s interpretation. Then came Lynton…well his hate- mongering means; proved the point that Harper’s politics did in deed have a close tie to fascism. We are not talking Nazism but the politics of fascism(extreme right wing).
      Unlike some other countries, my fellow Canadians did not buy into this hate.

  2. A. Graham says:

    To give you an idea of how much it meant for people to change the government … one woman I know (in her 40s and seriously agoraphobic) made it out, late in the day, to vote. Getting Harper out of power was more important than her own comfort zone. She said, “I couldn’t bear the thought of Harper getting in — especially if I hadn’t voted.”

  3. Chuck Learn says:

    Time wounds all heels. The power of social media woke people up and soundly defeated the Lynton Crosby nonsense.

  4. John Dammeyer says:

    Everyone is making this much too complicated. The fear of the Majority Reform Part/Conservative brand resonated throughout Canada during the first two Harper terms. People were afraid of what an unfettered Reform/Conservative party would do with a Majority.
    The Liberals also did poorly because their choice of leaders reflected the choices of back room manipulators. Importing a Canadian with only blood ties from the US didn’t help. “Only visiting” was definitely correct given where Ignatief is living now.
    Harper was finally given a majority in the last election because he used the fear tactics of a Liberal, NDP, BLOC coalition. No one in English speaking Canada wanted to give the BLOC that much power.
    So 4 years later Canadians had evidence of what the right wing Reform/Conservative could do when given absolute control. The 2011 election almost destroyed the BLOC and gave the NDP the mistaken idea that the country had moved far to the left. (not true).
    So with the evidence of what happens with a majority far right government and Harper at the helm, Canadians moved the NDP and Conservatives (and BLOC) back to their core supporters and put the Liberals in.
    What’s notable is the centre and left parties still reflect the majority of the popular vote. No amount of propaganda by Conservatives that Canadians just didn’t understand their ‘brand’ well enough will turn Canada into either a US version of Republicans or Democrats.

  5. Mona says:

    I give some credit to whoever first let the cat out of the bag about Crosby’s involvement and his background and tactics. As the article here says, that jolted a lot of people who otherwise might not have voted into going to the polls. I think that snitch line was the final straw, although Canadians did a GREAT job of mocking it.

  6. Jimmy says:

    I think they played the niqab card too early, this should have been the final card in the play, and not the Ford Brothers.

    By the time of election day, people were already tired of the niqab ads and the niqab was no longer appealing to many voters. So, they voted on other issues.

  7. Verne Jarvis says:

    I for one am glad to see that the Canada I live in is NOT Harper’s idea of what Canada should be.

    I also think the 3rd party ad where the European fellow spit on the Canadian flag proudly displayed by the Canadian tourist, saying “You used to be one of the good ones”, had an impact on the Canadian psyche. Canadians are generally proud to be the type of Canadians Harper apparently despises.

    Harper should be lynched for what he did to this country’s reputation and standing on the world stage. It is treasonous.

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