Saskatchewan

Scheer's mass text was bold but could backfire, says public relations expert

The party pulled phone numbers from its own database, but also used software that randomly generates phone numbers based on area codes, meaning some people who've never shared their phone number with the party got the texts.

Text messages part of a new campaign strategy

Provinces without a carbon pricing system in place have been getting a text message from Andrew Scheer about the federal carbon tax set to take hold April 1. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Getting an unexpected text messages can catch a person off guard — especially when it comes from a federal political leader.

But it's part of a new strategy from the Conservative Party of Canada.

People in provinces without a carbon pricing system in place — including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick — have been getting a text message from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

The party pulled phone numbers from its own database, but also used software that randomly generates phone numbers based on area codes, meaning some people who've never shared their phone number with the party got the texts.

The message is a reminder that the national carbon tax set to take hold on April 1 and that gas prices are going up 4.6 cents on the same day.

A text message sent from Andrew Scheer to many Canadian reminded people about the national carbon tax set to take hold on April 1. (Paul Dornstauder/CBC)

Victor Henriquez, a public relations specialist based in Montreal, says it's a bold move by the conservatives.

"It brings the feeling of proximity to people who already agree with the contemporary party on this position," he said.

"Now the problem can be for people who don't agree with them and people who are not happy about the fact that they received a message on their cell phone from someone that is not supposed to have the number."

Proceed with caution

Henriquez said using text messages to spread political messages began in the U.S. in the early 2000s and it's now making its way into Canada.

"This campaign is a good example of what technology can bring to politics and it will be very interesting to see what kind of effect it has on people to receive a text message from someone you don't know."

 It's important for politicians to get their message directly to voters, said Enriquez, but the party needs to be cautious about the amount of text messages it sends.

"People really react if they receive that kind of message too often," he said.

"It's very important for the Conservative Party to use this as a test but to be careful in how they use it [and] how often they use this technology," he said. "If not, it can be a slingshot against them."

Message doesn't include all information

An emailed statement from the Conservative party says the move is, "a way to communicate with voters in a new way. This will include radio ads, text messages, ads on social media and door-to-door."

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the text message leaves out important information about the carbon tax.

"It would be useful if the text actually told the whole story and said in addition to the change in the price you're actually going to be getting back more money than it's costing you," he told reporters on Thursday.

"That's the part of the equation that that Mr. Scheer has rather conveniently avoided."

Households in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba can apply for a tax credit credit starting this year, which is not tied to people's incomes.

A single adult in Saskatchewan is eligible for a $305 dollar rebate, while the baseline amount for a family of four is $609.

About the Author

Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

With files from Raluca Tomulescu and Elise von Scheel

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