Hudak’s campaign team tightens up events after earlier gaffes

The Tories are tightening up their photo-ops after a series of embarrassing miscues.

Last week, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak staged the opening event of his campaign at a music studio whose owner has enthusiastically endorsed the sort of government business grants Mr. Hudak has pledged to scrap. Then on Friday, he used a country club as the backdrop for a plan to lay off 100,000 public sector workers.

And on Sunday, transit security shut down an announcement on a subway car after Mr. Hudak’s team didn’t bother to clear the event with the Toronto Transit Commission.

But Monday’s photo-op, at Niagara food packaging company Stanpac, was tightly scripted.

Reporters were led into the empty factory before Mr. Hudak, at the head of the entire staff, suddenly emerged from around a corner and filed out in front of the cameras. As soon as his news conference was done, the Tory leader and the posse of workers disappeared into a backroom, leaving the factory empty again.

The Tory advance team also did its homework and discovered Stanpac had received a government loan. So they pre-empted any uncomfortable questions by bringing out Murray Bain, one of the company’s vice-presidents, to tell reporters he would prefer Mr. Hudak’s promised cheaper hydro to the “corporate welfare” offered by the Liberals.

Mr. Hudak, meanwhile, was determined not to allow the subway fiasco to overshadow his campaign for a second day. Asked if he agreed with PC operatives — who accused the transit officers’ union of shutting down the previous day’s photo-op in revenge for Mr. Hudak’s anti-union policies — the Tory leader laughed and dodged the question.

It was the kind of slick event you’d expect from the party that has wanted an election for the last two years and spent nearly that long preparing for it.

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, hugs his newborn baby Maitland Hudak after greeting supporters at his headquarters during a campaign stop in Grimsby, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, hugs his newborn baby Maitland Hudak after greeting supporters at his headquarters during a campaign stop in Grimsby, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

With a month to go before voting day, that ability to learn from mistakes will no doubt auger well for Mr. Hudak’s team.

And they’ll be hoping that, by the time Ontarians mark their ballots on June 12, country clubs, music studios and grim-faced TTC security officers will be but a distant memory.

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.)