Ottawa - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have hired well-known Aussie political strategist, Lynton Crosby, to be a campaign adviser. Crosby has had several successful ventures into foreign politics.
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Crosby is credited with helping David Cameron win a majority government in the UK earlier this year. Some Conservatives are questioning the performance of campaign director Jenni Byrne. However, no party has managed to really pull ahead in a close three-way race. The Conservatives may hope Crosby's expertise will help them pull into the lead.
Crosby also helped plan the successful campaign in 2008 that elected Boris Johnson mayor of London, and he repeated this success in 2012. He helped Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1998 and 2001. He also aided in the 2010 and 2013 federal campaigns as a strategist for Tony Abbott. Often Crosby works in conjunction with the Crosby-Textor group a consulting firm founded by Crosby and Australian pollster Mark Textor in 2002. The firm has run over 250 campaigns in 57 different countries. It requires experts to steer the populace in the right direction. So successful has Crosby been that he is often called the "Wizard of Oz" or "master of the dark political arts." Whatever his methods, he seems adept at applying them successfully. However he does not always win out. In March 2009 he directed the Europe-wide Libertas campaign for the EU parliamentary elections. Libertas ran 600 candidates and elected just one person to the European Parliament.
Crosby focuses on simple messages that polling suggests will have the desired results, often targeting specific groups only marginally involved in politics. In closely contested constituencies these tactics may produce enough votes to win for the party he is working for. He uses lots of polls to determine what ads are likely to be most effective. He often runs focus groups to find which groups to target with what questions using Textor's skills. In close constituencies he will search out local issues and ensure the campaign is properly tailored to the specific situation rather than concentrating on general policies.
Crosby is famous or infamous for using a wedge strategy, where a party exploits divisive social issues such as crime, race, or immigration to attract some members of other parties to favour the party he is working for. A famous example is John Howard's 2001 campaign in Australia. Howard had turned away the refugee-vessel MV Tampa with 440 people on board. Large ads appeared in newspapers boasting:"We decide who comes into this country." The entry on Cosby in Wikepdia notes:" During the 2001 Australian federal elections, Howard government ministers falsely claimed that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia." Allegedly, this was part of Crosby's strategy.
Some critics have complained that the Conservatives are violating Canadian electoral laws by using Crosby:
A spokesperson for the commissioner of elections says that providing advice to a campaign or working for a campaign is not considered inducement. Crosby is not doing the inducing just those whom he is advising. If you work for a campaign by going door to door or even distributing pamphlets this would surely be inducing people to vote for a particular candidate. I expect that it is not uncommon for parties to recruit campaigners of this sort from other countries when it is possible. The NDP and the Liberals have both sought advice from Obama strategists.
We can already see some movement in the direction of introducing a wedge issue in Harper's insistence that refugees admitted to Canada must be properly vetted to ensure that no terrorists are allowed in. While this requirement in itself is reasonable enough it could easily be turned into an excuse for not letting in many refugees and also be developed as part of the politics of fear that Harper often uses to promote his policies. Trudeau appears to worry about this and hence ends up supporting Harper's anti-terror legislation even while he claims he disagrees with it.
The Canada Elections Act specifies that it is illegal for anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to “in any way induce electors” to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.