Korey Teneycke’s Big Mistake

Teneycke, a former Sun TV executive, where CBC-baiting was mandatory, did little to douse this version: “If they want to debate the prime minister, they will know where he is and they can either show up or not.’’

This is pretty much the way of it with our Prime Minister, isn’t it? He’s the boss; if he gives you time, you’re lucky. If Opposition Leaders want to debate him, they have to come to him.

The problem with this framework is that the Prime Minister isn’t King, no matter how much he or his Small Council like to portray him as such.

This is democracy, folks — it’s the duty of the Crown, via her Prime Minister, to be accountable to Parliament, the people’s representatives.

Harper’s Small Council of advisers and partisan bannermen do a good job re-framing the narrative so that Parliament is seen as a tiresome impediment to democracy. The PM, by divine right of being PM, is entitled to go over the heads of Parliament and the Queen’s other representative to sell his message directly to the people without criticism or fact-checking by public servants, partisan opponents, the media or stakeholders.

Never personally, though. Harper doesn’t do crowds. He’s not big on taking unscripted questions from Joe and Jane Frontporch. He is only comfortable in controlled environments where he knows he has the upper hand — like, arguably, debates that are back-room framed by his people.

Were I working in an Opposition war room, especially the Liberal one, I’d see this as an opportunity.

Frame Harper and his well-manicured advisers as the solitary king and courtiers, dismissive of the people and playing their games of seats in The Red Chamber and Conservative Rock.

Put Trudeau in as many crowds of people as possible (not in front of, in)and bombard the airwaves, social media, etc. with images of him among the people, listening to the people, leading the people (and not just the partisan t-short wearing type, but real people in their own communities).

Whether Trudeau does well or falls flat in debates will matter, but most people aren’t going to see them. The more pictures they see of Trudeau out and among people like them, people who clearly are excited by him, the more likely they are to see him as their leader. The more they hear his voice echoed by their friends and their friends’ voices echoed by him, the more connected to him they will feel.

Especially if efforts are made to engage and listen to those large blocks of traditional non-voters, like youth, who are finding other ways to engage and are looking for allies to support them. “You’ve not been represented before,” I’d say — “that changes now. You have the message and the mission; I will raise your voice.”

A crowd-sourced policy platform like Ontario’s Budget Talks would reinforce that message, if it was actually used.

Trudeau = leader

Harper = liege

You’ll never draw Harper out into a crowd; he’s too paranoid for that. What you can do is make it painfully obvious by absentia how uncomfortable he is outside his safe zone, and contrast that with man among the people Trudeau.

Of course, smarter and much better-paid people than me have got all this worked out, so there’s no need to consider my two cents.