How to Game an Election

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


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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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    July 25, 2021 |

    Glad you enjoyed Craig. It was fun researching and writing that particular post. It seems I was in school many years before you, the 1950s to be more precise. Cheers, Harold

  • Craig Patterson

    July 18, 2021 |

    Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in Cold Lake (former town of Grand Centre) and we’d heard many stories over the years. Today I was talking to my Mom about the Kinosoo and I came to this article when I was searching images of the fish — I recall when I was in school in the 80s where was a photo supposedly taken (I think it’s the one of the ice fisherman above).

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.