Canada election 2015: What we learned in week 5
Summer campaigning phase ends with raw emotion, improvised plans and a tolerance for risk
Week five of the 2015 federal election marks the end of the long, slow, late-summer start to the campaign, with all parties expected to intensify their efforts after Labour Day.
But this end of the beginning might have been a turning point in other ways, too.
Here's a little of what we learned over the last five days:
'An image is worth a thousand words'
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's observation Thursday may be a cliché, but he's right.
As images of a drowned toddler on a Turkish beach touched hearts worldwide, Conservative candidate Chris Alexander, the immigration minister, suggested the media should have done more. But thousands of words have been spoken and written about the plight of Syrians fleeing conflict. Plenty has been said also about the state of Canada's refugee system.
Until that photo yielded a tragic story of a family's desperation to cut through red tape and join their relatives as refugees in Canada, it didn't seem like a ballot question.
One haunting image focused minds. It also upended the election agenda.
Mulcair, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau all reflected on their own experiences as parents and struggled to balance their emotions with their messages.
Strategically, the risks were highest for the Conservatives, who have to defend a record that includes significant refugee reforms. Message plans and media appearances were cancelled, as they scrambled to mount a defence against what appeared — at least at first — to be a game-changing development.
Perry Bellegarde doesn't vote
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde revealed Wednesday that he does not vote in federal elections. And statistics released by his organization show he's among the majority: in most ridings across Canada, fewer than 50 per cent, and sometimes less than a third, of eligible on-reserve voters cast a ballot in 2011.
His position on voting may undermine a cause the AFN is championing: increasing voter turnout among First Nations people.
It's unclear whether more First Nations ballots will really shift the result in the 51 ridings the AFN is targeting. Closing the gap on infrastructure and education spending is among the issues Bellegarde wants Canadians to consider as ballot priorities, even if he doesn't cast one himself.
Financial data is subjective
Did Tuesday's GDP numbers mean the economy was in recession, or growing? Well, both, depending on which party was talking about it. (There were two consecutive quarters of contraction, but the month of June reversed the trend and showed the Canadian economy moving in a positive direction once again.)
Similarly, did Friday's job numbers show progress, or stagnation?
Are there any definitive economic indicators to help voters assess if the government's plan for the economy is working well or badly in need of change?
There's been something for everyone in this week's financial figures. Numbers don't lie, but they certainly can spin.
You've always got time for...
It's hard to find more to say about the campaign staple of sipping and serving Tim Hortons coffee on a whistle stop.
But perhaps it's worth warning against the line Harper used behind the counter in Gananoque, Ont., this week: "Tell me what to do, just don't let me handle the cash." If that's the case, are you sure you should preside over the economy, sir?
Trudeau's decision to take a break from the grind and sip honey and lemon instead didn't seem to work against him as he served up the doughnuts in Gatineau, Que.
But Mulcair's sipping in B.C. may have affected his performance in a subsequent media appearance. We'll chalk up those slightly jumbled words to his "breakfast of champions" — starting the day with a wine-tasting session. As he said, it was already noon in Halifax, right?
Need levity? #NameHarpersPlane
What could be more democratic than letting the public having a go at what until now was the travelling media's domain: choosing the right nickname for a party's campaign plane. With the Conservatives' plane now, er, good to go, the debate began in earnest, with hilarious results.
As all three of the ground wars take flight with their own planes in the coming days, settling on the perfect name for christening offers a harmless distraction to look forward to.
We voted. It's called Economic Action Plane. Vote was 4-3. Other serious contender was Balanced BudJet. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/elxn42?src=hash">#elxn42</a> <a href="http://t.co/2cvRRprn5D">pic.twitter.com/2cvRRprn5D</a>—@cudmoreCBC
1,2,3 strikes and you're ... PM?
The Liberal campaign has taken several risks so far, but it took another one among coveted Toronto voters and baseball fans in general with the decision for Trudeau and his family to attend Friday night's Blue Jays game.
Others — Harper and Mulcair, specifically — tried and failed to bring good luck to the Blue Jays, who are winning plenty of games lately ... except when a campaigning politician is present.
Trudeau's presence added to the leaders' jinx, with a 10-2 blow-out loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
If the Jays keep winning as October approaches, the campaign message is clear.
The Rogers Centre: It's just not worth the risk.
- A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the AFN had received a half-million-dollar contract with Elections Canada to increase voter turnout among First Nations people. In fact, the work the AFN does with Elections Canada under that contract solely involves providing information about the mechanics of voting.Sep 05, 2015 2:09 PM ET