How to Game an Election

Written by Harold McNeill on September 18th, 2019. Posted in Editorials, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


This post is written as a less provocative introduction to a nasty game being played out across the nation as we move towards the October election. Two examples of the game are provided above and both happened today (Sept 18).

One was a fake news story about the Prime Minister, and the other, the doctoring of a Rick Mercer meme. Both were discovered by CBC news. We can expect much more of this stuff over the coming weeks and most of it will emanate from the Conservative Party and their backroom social media experts.

In an election as close as the one, where every vote counts and, short of a complete disaster on the part of one party or another, social media is absolutely the best bet for gaining undecided votes.  Following, are a couple of polls showing how things stood in July 2018.

Table I  “Would you consider voting for one of these parties?”

The numbers have not changed all that much over the past year. What happens to the Greens and NDP, has a considerable impact on the Liberals – not so much on the Conservatives. Clearly, the movement of voters between the Greens, NDP, and Liberals is more likely to affect the outcome of the election.

All the Conservatives need do is develop strategies to keep the Greens and NDP focussed on the Liberals while keeping their own party members solidly attached. A large part of that strategy involves heaping as much negativity as possible on the Liberals.  If the Greens and NDP help them out, so much the better.  Next up, the change between how you would vote in 2018 and 2019.

Table 2 

For the full set of 2018 tables link here.

Skipping forward to Sept 16, 2019, the vote percentages are little changed.  Conservatives 34.4% vs Liberal 34.1%, the NDP down 4% and the Greens up 2.5%.  The balance has pushed the Conservatives and Liberals slightly closer (Liberals down, 1.5% and Conservatives up .5%) When dealing with percentages this close, very small advantages can make all the difference in who occupies the Prime Ministers office after the election.  That is where social media set the standard.

Gaming the Political System

For the better part of the past decade, politicians around the world have been gaming the political system by using third-party social media sites to spread all kinds of memes and videos in which hate, fear, and fake news are the main ingredients.  In their quest, women, particularly women in politics, along with visible minorities, migrants, and immigrants are targeted in the most unseemly ways. Every country is under attack with the most visible recent examples being Brexit and the US Election.   Is Canada immune?  Most certainly not.

I support the Liberals, NDP, and Greens 100%, as across the spectrum of party positions they are very similar. In their quest for votes, the Greens and NDP  tackle the Liberals at every opportunity while giving the Conservatives a free pass. The Greens can also chew on the NDP as a possible source.  For the Conservatives, their opposition is the Liberals and for the most part, they sit back and watch the Greens and NDP attack on their behalf.

While the parties of the centre-left (Liberals, NDP and Greens) are supported by nearly 65% of Canadians, they are deluding themselves if they think they can win or tie, using traditional electioneering methods.  Sure, every little bit helps and if you are good on the hustings and have a reasonable platform, you can gain points, but those traditional means are labour-intensive and expensive and their worth pales in comparison to the returns to be gained in the on-line world where a large percentage of the population get their news and views.

Over the past five years, the Conservatives, under the guidance of experts in the field, have found the ways and means to gain an edge in that game through the effective use of third party supporters. Sure, they play a dirty game, but no matter how low you go, it’s entirely legal and Elections Canada does not have a leg to stand on in terms of reining in the worst offender. You may think all this back-room work is all done at arm’s length to the party, but you would be mistaken. Yesterday, September 16, 2019, the Conservative Party of Canada was sanctioned for posting fake news in the form of a meme (Opening graphic of this post). They removed the meme along with an apology (of sorts).

A short time later the North Seymour Conservative Association was also forced to remove a meme, one of Rick Mercer asking young people to Vote Conservative.  The post was doctored by adding Conservative after the word Vote. It was also removed.

The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the messages will be taken as statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating of how Trudeau was investigated by the RCMP.  Link here to the background on that affair.

Where do the majority of these memes and thousands of fake news posts come from – third-party social media advertisers of course. The managers of those many dozens of social media sites and blogs have close ties to both the provincial and federal arms of the Conservative Party.  Having memes such as the ones above posted by a third-party allows the party to maintain plausible deniability as to being complicit in their production and circulation.  That the sites and the party are one in purpose, just follow the managers.

Larry Brandt, was Andrew Sheer’s Manitoba Campaign Chair, before becoming a social media and blogging specialist.  Others, including Jeff Ballingall and Ryan O’Connor, who hail from Ontario, have long ties to the backrooms of the Conservatives. They cut their social media teeth during the Ontario election that propelled Doug Ford to office.  Since that time they have crisscrossed the nation working the backrooms.

Two days ago I wrote a full post on how this has played out across Canada but I was not happy with having come across so strong with the title and in particular one word.  I will change the title to something less provocative but in the meantime, I will use this post as an introduction to the challenges we face over the coming weeks. A link to the original post is provided below.

The Greens, NDP, and Liberals have a choice to make over the coming weeks.  They can choose to work together to tackle critical issues such as climate change or they can go their separate ways, pick at each other, and put the Conservatives in power.

If you wish to gain an understanding of the full scope of the Conservative social media machine, read the material in this link on how the King of Conservative Social Media does the dirty work.

Harold

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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  • McNeill Life Stories How to Game an Election - McNeill Life Stories

    September 18, 2019 |

    […] The Federal Conservatives and Seymour Riding Association complied but one day later those memes will be shared by every third party social media site and by thousands of supporters where the message will be taken as a statements of the fact.  Five years from now those memes will still be circulating. (Link here to background on the SNC Lavalin matter) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    August 21, 2019 |

    For those who followed the earlier post about the cost of ICBC Auto insurance coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (linked in comments) here is another follow-up article.

    This article again confirms earlier assertions that public-private insurers such as that which ICBC provides, is among the best in Canada in terms of rates and coverage. A link is provided in the original story.

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.