Canada election 2015: What day 1 tells us about the parties' campaigns

The five major federal leaders chose different places, backdrops and approaches for their first statements of the first day of the 2015 election campaign - and their choices may say something about the style of campaign they plan to wage.
Tonight's French language debate may not get the same attention outside Quebec that the others did, but it still could have a significant impact on the outcome of the electio (Reuters/Canadian Press)

The five major federal leaders chose different locations, backdrops and core messages for their opening statements of the first day of the 2015 election campaign — and their choices say something about the style of campaign they plan to wage.

Here's a brief round up of the leaders' first look on day one of the campaign, in order of appearance:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

Rideau Hall, Ottawa

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper held his news conference in front of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
Optics: Harper is solo at a podium in front of the official residence of the Governor General. It's the standard beginning for an incumbent prime minister's election campaign.

Key quote: "Now is most certainly not the time for higher taxes, reckless spending and permanent deficits. Now is the time to stay on track, now is the time to stick to our plan. This election is also about security, not merely our security against the normal risks of criminal behaviour, but our security against the growing threats of an increasingly dangerous world."

What it says about the campaign: While the other parties hope to convince Canadians it's time for a change in government, Stephen Harper went to great lengths to describe change as a risky, regrettable choice. It's a theme we can expect to hear over and over during the campaign. Harper hopes to represent safety and stability in the midst of all that danger.

Took questions: Five.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair

National Museum of Canadian History, Gatineau, Que.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chose a symbolic location, across from Parliament Hill in Gatineau, Que. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Optics: Majestic view of Parliament Hill from across the River in Gatineau, Que. No supporters, no theme music, he skipped the typical campaign spectacle and tried to speak directly to Canadians. Same spot the party's late leader, Jack Layton, used in the last election.

Key quote: "Our plan is built on enduring Canadian values, hard work, living within your means, accountability and an unwavering commitment to focus on the government's priorities on helping you get ahead."

What it says about the campaign: Many polls have the Conservatives and NDP running neck and neck. Mulcair tried to look prime ministerial and present himself as an alternative to Stephen Harper, while trying to frame this as a two-party race.

Took Questions: No

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Mary Winspear Community Cultural Centre, Sidney, B.C.

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, kicked off her campaign with Green candidates and supporters at the Mary Winspear Community Centre in Sidney, B.C. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Optics: When the Prime Minister visited Rideau Hall, it was still early morning on Vancouver Island, where Elizabeth May kicked off her campaign flanked by 10 other candidates in front of a small group of very enthusiastic supporters in her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Key quote: "We need to think like a country again, we need a diversified economy, we need to respect our institutions."

What It says about the campaign: As with recent elections, the Green Party is trying to get Canadians to give them a solid look. By appearing with other B.C. candidates, May tried to illustrate there is depth to her party, that she is not only viable candidate for the Greens.

Took Questions: Yes

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe

BQ headquarters, Montreal

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, right, and former leader Mario Beaulieu held their news conference in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Optics: An office. Several Bloc Quebecois candidates behind him, including Mario Beaulieu, whom he replaced as leader.

Key quote: (Asked how his message would be different this time around): "I think it's fundamentally, essentially of the same nature: Make Quebec a country. Defend Quebec's interests."

What it says about the campaign: Not trying very hard. Compared to the more interesting optics of Duceppe's recent bike tour of Quebec, this was a pretty sedate event. Duceppe isn't offering much new. Once again he's trying to convince Quebecers that the other parties don't represent their interests. 

Took questions: Yes.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Olympic Cauldron, Vancouver

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau trailed the other leaders by a few hours, with a West Coast news conference from his "second home." (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Optics: Mountain ranges behind him, surrounded by a several dozen candidates. Trudeau's election launch speech happened 4 hours after Harper visited the Governor General.

Key quote: "I'm glad to be here today. Here in Vancouver. Because B.C. matters, like every corner to the country, and getting outside the Ottawa bubble is extremely important to Canadians. And second of all, I made a promise to the half a million British Columbians who will be celebrating pride this afternoon — celebrating Canada's diversity — and I'll tell you something: No one's going to get me to break my word, particularly not Stephen Harper."

What it says about the campaign: Trudeau is trying to make the point that he's different, to set himself apart from his biggest competitors and convince Canadians he's the candidate that best represents change. However, his decision Sunday came at a cost: he missed out on a bit of the spotlight when all the other parties were launching their campaigns.

Took questions: Yes.


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