NDP campaign gets creative in Stephen Harper's riding

One Calgary-area campaign is getting creative in its quest to unseat Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. For a $50 donation to the local NDP candidate, anyone can put a custom message on a campaign-style sign that will be placed near a Harper election sign.

For $50, anyone can have a message put on a campaign-style sign

The NDP campaign in Calgary Heritage is getting creative in its attempt to unseat Stephen Harper. (CBC)

One Calgary-area campaign is getting creative in its quest to unseat Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

For a $50 donation to the local NDP candidate, anyone can put a custom message on a campaign-style sign that will be placed near a Harper election sign.

No swearing allowed. 

"We wanted to give people in Calgary and in the constituency the chance to send a public message to the prime minister, to tell him what they think," said Peter Oliver, who works on communications and strategy for the NDP's Matt Masters Burgener, who is running against Harper in the riding of Calgary Heritage.

"They fill out a form on our website and they're given 50 characters to write whatever message they want to Stephen Harper."

In good taste

The initiative, called Send Harper a Message, was launched on Sept. 13 and has already brought in $2,000 for the campaign, Oliver says. 

"One of my favourite ones was 'I want off the omnibus,'" said Oliver, who adds the submissions so far have been a mix of playful and serious. 

There are no rules around what someone can say on a sign, which features a small NDP logo, as long as it's in good taste. 

"If someone just wants to yell a bunch of bad words at him, we're not going to put that up. But at the same time, if someone wants to say 'You're doing an amazing job, we love you,' we'll put that up too," Oliver said. 

"I think that's representative of what they're saying and you'll see the proportion of how many people are happy and how many people are not so happy."

Missing candidate

He says the idea came from the perception Harper is rarely in the constituency and that those who are expected to vote for him rarely get the opportunity to speak their mind or ask questions. 

"We're hearing from a lot of people that Harper is taking Calgary for granted," said Oliver. "He doesn't really campaign here, they don't see him here during the election, they don't expect to see him."

The Conservative Party was asked to comment on this story and emailed a statement that said it is focused on the economy during this election and that it is the best choice for managing Canada's finances. The NDP is also squaring off against Brendan Miles from the Liberal Party, Kelly Christie from the Green Party and Libertarian Steven Paolasini.

The Burgener campaign seems realistic about its odds, but is taking the challenge seriously. 

Some members of his team, such as Oliver, worked on successful underdog campaigns including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi's first election, Calgary city councillor Evan Woolley's upset over incumbent John Mar and Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark's defeat of then-education minister Gordon Dirks.

"I think there actually is a way to beat Stephen Harper in his own riding and have him lose his own seat, regardless of whether or not the Conservatives win a minority or majority government," said Oliver, who worked on all three of those campaigns.

"I'm not just going to say naively that 'Oh yeah, we are going to do it,' but there is a way, we have a team that can and has done it before and we are really motivated."


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