Politics

Conservatives say they're not bothered by modest crowd sizes

Andrew Scheer's people say they're not troubled by the modest turnout of supporters at some of the Conservative leader's public campaign events. In fact, they say it's all part of the strategy.

Andrew Scheer's team says it prefers to see its volunteers out knocking on doors

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer listens to questions during a campaign event in Ottawa on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Andrew Scheer's people say they're not troubled by the modest turnout of supporters at some of the Conservative leader's public campaign events. In fact, they say it's all part of the strategy.

While that might sound counterintuitive, a senior Conservative source said the campaign would rather see its volunteers out knocking on doors and handing out lawn signs instead of spending time and energy on organizing traditional rallies where supporters are used as a "human backdrop."

Scheer was asked about his crowd sizes on Tuesday during a news conference in Winnipeg, a day after an enthusiastic but small group of around 200 people showed up to watch Scheer's stump speech in Calgary.

Given the overwhelming support for the Conservative Party in Alberta, the deep sense of frustration there with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the continued popularity of United Conservative Party Premier Jason Kenney, the crowd in Calgary seemed surprisingly small.

On day one of the campaign, about 500 people attended an evening rally for Scheer in the Greater Toronto Area riding of Woodbridge-Vaughan. About 350 people attended a Scheer rally at a community centre gym in Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island on Sunday.

Trudeau is drawing much larger audiences so far. CBC News reporters covering the Liberal leader's tour say that on the first day of the campaign in Vancouver, around 1,300 attended a Trudeau rally there. On the third day, more than 1,200 people showed up for an event with Trudeau in Montreal.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and his wife Jill conduct a cheer with children playing soccer at a campaign event in Kelowna, B.C. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

"We actually specifically tell people, 'You know, the best thing you can do to help form a Conservative government is hit those doors, get those brochures out,'" Scheer said on Tuesday.

"We specifically ask other campaigns to keep their volunteers on the ground knocking doors as much as possible ... I'm actually very pleased with the turnout."

Ground game favoured

The Conservative source acknowledged the party's strategy is untested — and it won't know whether it worked until the votes are counted.

But the source expressed confidence that volunteer energy is better spent on the ground game than on rallies.

The source said the party is working to reshape its volunteer culture, and building up the ground game is a big part of that effort.

Scheer will do some rallies in larger Canadian cities closer to voting day. But these events are not expected to be the primary focus for the Conservative team.

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