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Sep
22 2011

Campaign Lessons from Stephen Harper

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

Dalton McGuinty has basically spent this election campaign doing two things:   * visiting the factories where he thinks tens of thousands of renewable energy jobs will be created   * and visiting hospitals where he can announce millions more for various health-related expenditures.   Premier Dalton McGuinty announces, if re-elected, the Liberals will give hundreds of millions of dollars to Mt. Sinai Hospital for new surgical units in the O.R. and E.R.     The beauty of these kinds of announcements (from the Liberals' standpoint) is that the premier can look like he's meeting everyday Ontarians without actually doing so.   From right to left: Dalton and Terrie McGuinty, Beaches-East York candidate Helen Burstyn, Trinity-Spadina candidate Sarah Thomson, and Thornhill candidate Bernie Farber.     Today, it was an announcement at Mount Sinai Hospital and it brought out a ton of heavy hitters.   The chairman of the board, Lawrence Bloomberg, showed up to speak. So did the hospital's CEO, Joseph Mapa.   And almost a couple of dozen highly-skilled doctors and nurses, clad in lab coats and greens, were taken away from their jobs for an hour, so they could serve as a backdrop for the premier's announcement.     One surgeon whispered to me, "I'm giving up valuable E.R. time coming to this thing." He didn't sound happy, in spite of the multi-million dollar promises.       Everybody at today's announcement stood to benefit from it. The likelihood of anything embarrassing or off-putting happening was virtually nil.   I can't confirm this, but I suspect the premier will only appear at extremely tightly stage-managed events now because of something that happened in the 2007 election campaign.   At a photo op in Ottawa, McGuinty was walking down a hospital corridor, shaking hands with patients. Out of the blue, a cancer patient approached him and essentially accused the premier of killing him because the hospital wasn't as well resourced as it needed to be to fight his particular disease.   While the premier's safety was never in question, the clip made all the newscasts and certainly put a damper on McGuinty's visit.       That can no longer happen. The Liberals appear to have learned some lessons from the Conservative Party of Canada, which put Stephen Harper in a bubble during the federal election campaign earlier this year and never let him out.     Dalton McGuinty holds a news conference after his Mt. Sinai announcement. His wife Terrie looks on.     The image created is one of a serious, solid guy, in control of his situation, which is clearly what the Liberals want conveyed. Campaign staffers watched with admiration as Stephen Harper managed, in the midst of The Great Recession, to convince people that changing horses now would be a bad idea.     Trinity-Spadina candidate Sarah Thomson shares a laugh with the premier after the Mt. Sinai announcement.     And lest you think it's just the Liberals doing this, it isn't. Conservative leader Tim Hudak rarely finds himself in circumstances that aren't equally as controlled.   Only NDP leader Andrea Horwath seems prepared to put herself in a "risky" position, where she actually has to mingle with the electorate (as she did on the Toronto subway system earlier this week).         Frankly, it's too bad. The electorate already feels as if it has precious little connection to politics nowadays. And it's hard to imagine that campaigning inside a bubble gives everyday Ontarians a deeper connection to their leaders.   *   *   *         Premier Dalton McGuinty arrives at his event at Mount Sinai hospital with some talented and expensive health care professionals ready to play background props.       McGuinty says he's enjoying the election campaign.       Dalton McGuinty asks whether Tim Hudak really cares about health care.       McGuinty says his health care plans will be at risk if the Tories win the October 6 election.       Applause applause for the premier's announcement. The first two hands he shakes are Mt. Sinai CEO Joseph Mapa and board chairman Lawrence Bloomberg.

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