Conservatives are masters of distraction

Fred DeLorey's fundraising letters are Exhibit A

Adrian Wyld/CP

“You won’t believe what the Press Gallery just did in Ottawa.” —Fred DeLorey, in a letter to Conservative supporters

Fred DeLorey must love his job. The Conservative Party’s director of political operations, the man who signs many of its fundraising letters, need only give the press a whiff of his latest missive to supporters. Then, it’s mission accomplished. Reporters can’t help but amplify every word that DeLorey put to paper. The Conservative mantra spreads, free of charge. Thank you, thank you.

Yesterday, the Conservatives were at it again. Today, go search for “press gallery ottawa” on Google News, and witness how the strategy—again—worked like a charm.

Let’s refocus. Forget that spin, for just a minute. Yesterday, Governor General David Johnston delivered a Speech from the Throne. Aside from its appeal, at times, to just about everybody in the country—a 7,000-word speech had better speak to the entire nation, because holy what a tome—there’s a theory that this was all about speaking to your average committed Conservative.

“Protect the base is the unspoken through-line in this speech,” wrote the National Post‘s Andrew Coyne. “Perhaps the base will be pleased. The Tories had better hope.” That line sounds so ominous because, these days, the Conservatives are sagging in the polls and, for the time being, clinging to that base.

Maybe that possibly restless base was yesterday’s only intended audience. Forget any socialist or bleeding heart or hardcore conservative, never mind the undecided voter who maybe likes Stephen Harper but isn’t so sure. Some of those people may have liked some of yesterday—lower bank fees!—but that’s all a bonus. Two years from now, that’s the time to convince all those people to change their tune. Yesterday was all about making sure the band’s still together. A few weeks out from a party convention, yesterday’s speech recalled almost every recent Conservative hit, and reminded all who listened of the country’s impossible determination, and crystallized this very second as a moment for Canada. And concluded: If you voted for this government, you can share in this moment.

Afterwards, DeLorey did his thing. He lashed out at the press, knew his message would find a wide audience, and probably smiled broadly. Even if the whole country knows when the Conservative Party’s blatantly playing to its base, and even if it looks so transparently crass, what matters is people are talking about it. The more they talk about a Conservative vendetta against the press gallery, or a Conservative play to its traditional base, the less people are talking about other things that really matter. Mission accomplished.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Stephen Harper is expected to finalize a free trade pact with the EU.
National Post The Speech from the Throne lacked clear conviction.
Toronto Star The feds pledged to pass balanced-budget legislation.
Ottawa Citizen The throne speech contained few surprises.
CBC News Barack Obama signed a bill that averted a disastrous default.
CTV News The world breathed a sigh of relief as the U.S. avoided default.
National Newswatch Green Party star candidate Georges Laraque faces fraud charges.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Lac-Mégantic. The struggling railway at the heart of this summer’s rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., received an extension to operate until Feb. 1, 2014 from the Canadian Transportation Agency. The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway has transported 80 per cent fewer dangerous goods since the incident, and no longer sends crude oil along its rails.
THE GLOBAL Bike ban. The Indian city of Kolkata has banned cyclists from 174 streets in the sprawling city, a move that’s infuriated activists who say poor residents can’t afford the luxury of cars—and, besides, the city should be promoting environmentally friendly cycling to mitigate the smog levels that afflict the area. Statistics suggest 11 per cent of residents cycle every day.
THE QUIRKY Yeti. A British scientist, Oxford University’s Bryan Sykes, tested hairs from different ends of the Himalayas and concluded that the modern-day yeti does exist—and is most likely a hybrid of ancient polar bears and brown bears. One of the DNA strands matches perfectly a polar bear jaw bone from Norway that dates anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 years old.

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