The campaign’s first candidate controversy

With the sudden start of the election campaign having forced scrambles to fill nominations, it was only a matter of time until some poorly-vetted candidate embarrassed his or her party. And on Saturday, we got our first such story.

In what must have been a fairly easy bit of opposition research, the provincial Tories dug up some rather unfortunate Facebook post by Jack Uppal – the newly-minted Liberal candidate in the Ottawa-area riding of Nepean-Carleton –  riffing on the differences  between the brainpower of men and women. Among other insights, it offered that while women are better than men at learning languages and at detecting lies, they can’t “find solutions to problems” and don’t have the capacity to read maps.

Mr. Uppal is a classic example of the sort of candidate who tends to cause grief for a party. Not only is he running in a riding where the Liberals don’t have much chance of winning, meaning their candidate search was probably a bit haphazard to begin with; per the Ottawa Citizen’s David Reevely, he had to step in last minute under unusual circumstances.

This little episode is hardly likely to rank among the campaign’s big stories. As a general rule, candidate eruptions tend to only do real damage when they reinforce some negative perception of the party they’re running for. And whatever the other knocks on Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, sexism isn’t usually one of them.

That might explain why the Liberals are aiming to just brush it off. Their official line seems to be that the post in question (which was actually a re-post of someone else’s words) came before he was a candidate and he’s now taken it down and apologized, so it’s case closed.

Still, it’s a little surprising they haven’t moved to replace Mr. Uppal with someone else, if only because they’re personally offended by what he posted. And if nothing else, that would make it easier for them to make hay when a candidate from another party inevitably gets into hot water for something or other.

Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.

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Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)