Opinion Column

THE DUEL

Unclear what 'clean' means 0

Brent Stafford

By Brent Stafford, The Duel

NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe's pledge for a clean campaign takes control of the message away from the party. (SUBMITTED)

NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe's pledge for a clean campaign takes control of the message away from the party. (SUBMITTED)

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Election campaigns are an exercise in contrast. Incumbents run on their record and challengers must run as a distinct alternative. This is the mission for mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe and the NPA in Vancouver’s upcoming civic election.

LaPointe must clearly articulate a stark difference between his policy proposals and approach to governance with that of Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver.

The obstacle for the NPA is that many Vancouver voters are not as yet unhappy with the current city government. For those who may be inclined to be unhappy, they can’t quite put their finger on why they should be.

The NPA’s promise to run a clean campaign complicates the task of defining a distinct difference — helping voters to get their heads around why they should be disaffected. Inherently, the NPA’s campaign has to be unyieldingly negative to have any chance of defining voter disappointment. If they fail to do so, then they will lose the election.

Does convincing voters they should be disaffected necessitate the NPA attacking their opponents personally? No, it does not. However, for LaPointe and the NPA to win they must hammer Robertson and Vision Vancouver at every turn. The clean campaign promise handcuffs their ability to do this and offers no proven benefit in return.

Time and again, party leaders make the strategic mistake of anchoring platforms on a clean campaign promise when there is absolutely no tangible evidence the public votes favourably on this issue.

Can you think of one election that turned on the promise of being nice? I can’t, because there hasn’t been one. A clean campaign promise certainly didn’t work for Adrian Dix and the BC NDP in the last provincial election.

Read Laila Yuile's column here

I agree with Laila that Dix didn’t run much of a campaign. However, it is accepted criticism that Dix’s clean campaign promise severely hindered his ability to effectively and coherently respond to BC Liberal criticism and his refusal to get nasty meant he was unable to deliver a knockout punch.

LaPointe has willingly put himself in the same predicament. Astonishingly, he’s even upped the ante by promising to resign if anyone on his team is found guilty of breaking the clean pledge. I ask, who arbitrates what is clean and what is not? Herein lies the disaster for the NPA — its opponents and the media will be the judge, jury and executioner. Sadly, debate on the issues will suffer.

Brent Stafford is a veteran television news-documentary producer and marketing specialist. You can watch his show at ShakyPolitics.com.

 

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