Can the Tories attach an ‘angry’ label to Kathleen Wynne?

When the Progressive Conservatives unveiled their sunny new campaign ad on Saturday, deputy leader Christine Elliott pointedly drew a contrast between Tim Hudak being optimistic and Kathleen Wynne being “angry, negative and lashing out at others.”

It wasn’t the first time this election Mr. Hudak’s party has accused Ms. Wynne of being “angry,” and I doubt it will be the last.

Months before the campaign started, I asked a couple of provincial Tories what their research told them about how the rookie premier played with Ontarians. They conceded that in general, first impressions were fairly positive. But they also said their focus groups had pointed to potential vulnerabilities. One of them was that, if she wasn’t careful, Ms. Wynne could be seen as unappealingly angry.

To those who have watched or interacted with Ms. Wynne on a regular basis, this might seem an odd accusation. Whatever her other flaws, Ms. Wynne hardly ranks among the more ornery politicians Ontario has seen; quite the contrary, really.

But the Tories believe that’s how she can come across on TV. And no doubt, when they saw the ads the Liberals ran in the run-up to the campaign, they thought she was putting herself in precisely the wrong light – or, from their perspective, precisely the right one.

Those spots set an aggressive tone that Ms. Wynne has maintained during the campaign. Although the Liberals have trotted out a few other MPPs to take shots at their opponents, Ms. Wynne is unusually willing to take them herself rather than leaning on her surrogates.

Her strategists think that makes her look honest and tough; Mr. Hudak’s evidently think it makes her look like what those focus groups told them she could. The more aggressive she is between now and June 12, the more the Tories can be expected to try to attach that other a-word to her as well.


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.



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.)