BC NDP contributors might want to ask where their money went

Less than  50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the recent B.C. election. Prior to the election, chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld told the Straight that he was hoping for a 62 percent turnout.

This would have meant two million ballots cast. Instead, only 1,545,716 people voted, a sharp drop from the 2005 election.

There are lots of reasons for the low turnout. All four party leaders--Gordon Campbell, Carole James, Jane Sterk, and Wilf Hanni--failed to inspire the electorate.

The first-past-the-post system discourages people from turning up in constituencies where you know who's going to win before the election writ is dropped.

Local  television  stations also underplayed the election,  sometimes commencing coverage in the second block of news.

But I think there's another reason that must be considered. And that's how the political parties marketed their election messages.

Both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP appeared to devote the bulk of their expenditures on placing ads on conventional television stations, including the evening newscasts.

The biggest beneficiary appeared to be Canwest Global Communications Corp.

Yes, those NDP donors  wrote lots of cheques that  ended up filling  Canwest's empty coffers.

Meanwhile, the Canwest-owned Vancouver Sun endorsed Premier Gordon Campbell in a pre-election editorial. And just to rub it in, the Vancouver Sun ran an election-day opinion piece from B.C. Business Council head Virginia Greene touting how good the Campbell government is for women.

The election-day  opinion piece  didn't mention that Greene is a former B.C. Liberal candidate.

It's time to let the NDP and B.C. Liberal braintrusts in on a secret: conventional television is in decline because many viewers are moving up the dial to watch specialty channels, such as Newsworld, MuchMusic, TSN, and Business News Network, to name a few. They're also watching ethnic stations.

And the growing number of people who don't watch television are either reading print publications or scouring the Internet.

CTVglobemedia executive vice president Paul Sparkes said earlier this year that because of all those specialty channels, the  conventional television model is "broken".  It's why the broadcasters are begging for new fees to be added to cable bills.

But that didn't stop the political parties from bombarding the conventional stations with advertising. And guess what? Hardly anyone showed up to vote.

The next time the NDP comes begging for  your  money, you might want to ask these fundraisers: are you going to blow my hard-earned dough on conventional television advertising that people can block out by hitting a button on their converters?

I sent an e-mail asking an NDP communications official how much money was spent on advertising and how much of this went to conventional television stations. I also asked how much NDP money went to Canwest.

Not surprisingly, I haven't received a response.

The union  that represents  Canwest employees obviously  wants to see more money going to Canwest to save the workers' jobs. After all, the corporation is teetering on the edge of seeking bankruptcy protection.

But there are other unions--such as  CUPE and the B.C. Teachers' Federation--that might not like the idea of a lot of NDP funds going to  save  Canwest in its hour of need.

Canwest has supported public-private partnerships and gone out of its way to publicize the Fraser Institute's rankings of public and private schools. That hasn't impressed some public servants and teachers.

It will be interesting to see if CUPE and the BCTF start poking around to try to find out how much of the NDP's expenditures went to Canwest in the recent election campaign. Any party members who are curious to know about this deserve some answers from NDP president Jeff Fox.

Regardless,  the party  ought to conduct a review of  the marketing of its candidates and its platform. Because the voter-turnout figures suggest that something might have gone dreadfully wrong in the 2009 campaign.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
Wow. So the underlying thrust here is that the Straight didn't get enough money from the parties involved, so there should be an investigation. Well, since the Straight is about as left as Mother Jones, why would the NDP bother selling to the converted? Boy, talk about a self-interested editorial.
Rating: +1

All that money won't be enough to keep them going more than a coupla months.

Then Baldy, Palmer and Smyth can add their sorry asses to the unemployment line. Perhaps they'll want a column here.

Can Corus be far behind. One hopes NOT.
Rating: +1
May I remind you that Canwest owns several cable channels that you claim is a better advertising alternative.

What do you want? Less advertising on Canwest media, or more cable advertising?
Rating: +2
Charlie Smith
CTVglobemedia owns more cable channels. All I'm saying is that the parties blew their financial brains out on conventional television ads at a time when everyone has a converter and lots of stations to choose from higher on the dial. And we had a record low turnout. Maybe they should look at their marketing. Or their leaders. Or both. Anyone who wants to pile on the criticism can't deny this: there was a wretched, abysmal turnout, unlike in the recent U.S. election.
Rating: -1
I've learned that the NDP refused to place ads in the only available Punjabi movies broadcast in greater Vancouver. A proposal that would have seen their ad spots in 8 three hour, incredibly popular movie slots during the campaign, including every Sunday during prime time, would have cost them a pittance (under $4,000.) and would have effectively reached virtually every South Asian home in the Fraser Valley and the rest of Greater Vancouver as these movies have become a cultural institution within the Punjabi community. They said no but to spite the South Asian program producer, who is a long time party member whose family has worked for the party (gratis) for over 30 years, they ran ads with Shaw that aired ahead of the movies instead of within the movies. This money spent was a waste as it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the last place a person is going to be in the couple of minutes just ahead of a 3 hour movie is in front of the TV. Further to this, the program producer in question was responsible for blowing the whistle on some really questionable party decisions ahead of the 2005 election. This wasn't done publicly but in private yet the party still tried to "kill the messenger". Bush league is too tame a description for this kind of self defeating stupidity.

Jeff Fox and Gerry Scott are either really incompetent or they deliberately worked against the party's best interests. It's instructive to know that Jeff Fox's brother Bill was a senior Mulroney aide during the first term. Given that both Mulroney and Campbell are bullish on selling out Canada to Republican Party interests...is it really a stretch to feel slightly suspicious regarding the grossly inept handling of the latest NDP campaign?
Rating: +1
The loss of the NDP has nothing to do with where they spent their ad money. It has everything to do with the boneheads they put forth as candidates, and the person leading them to misery. I was an NDP voter right up until three days before the election, but looking at who the NDP put up in my riding, and who the Greens put up alongside them, I just couldn't do it. If Carole James spent more time building a real platform instead of just refuting everything the Libs put in place and forcing quota-candidates on areas where better options existed, we might be looking at a new government in B.C. Instead, the NDP boffins are already talking about how Carole will take it all in 2013.. Like they told us she'd take 2009 and 2005, right? New blood, please. Change begins at the top.
Rating: -2
Let's face it - Jeff Fox is the BCLiberal choice to manage BC NDP campaigns. He ought to get a "free pardon" card or some relief from speeding tickets :-).
Rating: +1
The NDP advertising wasn't restricted to local news. Anyone watch the Canucks in the playoffs? Every commercial was a political ad - at least half NDP.
And the ads on local news would have been seen by hundreds of thousands per night. The erosion in viewership of conventional TV is in prime time not local news. Local news ratings are strong. The whole premise of editorial is silly.
Rating: +4
Charlie Smith
Anyone interested in a rebuttal to the former comment should check out this article on the cord-cutting generation, which appeared in the Washington Post:
Rating: -2
Advertising armchair quarterbacking? It's fine to do a review of a marketing strategy, but seriously, advertising isn't the only piece to marketing.

Besides I'm more interested in who got what and how much and what information exchanged hands in the BC Rail scandal.

And if you're talking about sketchy connections, how about all those private power guys? Plutonic Power has all sorts of connections to the Libs. Former deputy chief of staff to Campbell Tom Syer is a director. I also understand Mark Grant BC Liberal ED resigned in Dec 2008 to join Rupert Peace Power. Interesting.
Rating: +5
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