The federal Liberal Party is aiming to convince supporters at its Halifax convention next month to stick with the winning formula that was used in the 2015 general election.
“You will see a common thread; we are not going to make a 90-degree right-hand turn all of a sudden. The objectives that we had in 2014 and 2015 are still there,” party president Anna Gainey said in an interview. “We’re still focused on ‘real change’ and on the plan that we put forward and on improving the lives of Canadians.”
Liberals are expecting about 3,000 supporters at the April 19-21 event. The main speech on the second day will be given by David Axelrod, who was former U.S. president Barack Obama’s main strategist in the 2008 and 2012 U.S. elections. During the 2012 Obama campaign, Mr. Axelrod argued the main Democratic messages should continue to be about bringing about change and helping the middle class, even as Mr. Obama was carrying baggage from his first mandate.
“I’m hoping he has good stories to tell and that he can help us in our efforts to motivate and inspire and focus our folks on 2019 and the importance of the hard work that will be required between now and then,” said Ms. Gainey.
The Liberal Party wants to use the Halifax convention to put together its platform, with 30 policy motions up for debate. At the same time, some key Liberal officials want the party to get ready for an increased onslaught of negative attacks, especially on social media. For now, the strategy seems to be fighting back on Twitter by branding the critics as “alt-right” members of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s “Rebel Army,” as senior members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s team have been doing.
Liberal MP Andy Fillmore, who represents the Halifax riding where the convention will be held, said caucus members are confident about the coming election, while growing tired of the partisan attacks.
“I am seeing frayed nerves from some of the partisan antics that we are being subjected to by the Official Opposition, but those are not the same as nerves regarding what will happen in the fall of 2019,“ he said.
A series of recent polls have shown the Liberal Party losing ground to the Conservatives amid a series of ethical and financial controversies. In an interview, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt said the Liberals are misguided in their attempts to blame others – including internet trolls – for their problems.
“Clearly they are trying to paint themselves as victims. They are not victims, they are the government of Canada and they are making big mistakes,” said Ms. Raitt.
She added the government has to acknowledge that it broke a number of its election promises, including a return to balanced budgets, in its current mandate.
“They have to contend with the Canadian public on broken promises. I don’t know what type of magic Mr. Axelrod can do to undo the fact they have broken promises,” Ms. Raitt said.
While Mr. Obama campaigned in 2008 under the “Yes we can” slogan, he credited his supporters four years later for his accomplishments with the phrase “You did that” at the Democratic convention. In that context, the Trudeau Liberals want to continue touting their main accomplishments in power, such as creating the Canada Child Benefit and improving the Canada Pension Plan.
Mr. Axelrod’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.
The other guest speakers at the Liberal convention will include Syrian refugee Tareq Hadhad, who started a successful chocolate business after arriving in Canada in 2015; family physician and health-care expert Danielle Martin; Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, an executive in the high-tech sector and an advocate for women in the industry; and the Halifax-born executive vice-president of Levi Strauss & Co., James Curleigh, who is an expert in branding.