10 Years After

September 11, 2001 -
I remember vividly where I was at 8:46 a.m. Laura and I were in our office, welcoming Federal Court judges to our media seminar. Chief Justices of the Superior Courts from every province were filing in for their day before the cameras. The television was on in our large reception area in our office in the heritage building, known as the Central Chambers, overlooking Ottawa's Confederation Square. A day so achingly beautiful. Little did we know that it was to be the last day of our innocence.

As we gathered around the television, trying desperately to comprehend what we were looking at.  Then the double hit - of the plane hitting the South Tower at 9:03 - and any thoughts of an 'accident' were obliterated. Although I didn't feel like it, I suggested to the judges that we begin the seminar and that we would stop at lunch to see what has transpired. To my amazement, we continued the seminar and I look back on it and sometimes think of how our brains can shift into another gear under terrible circumstances. We did indeed stop at noon to learn that Flight 93 had been brought down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

Looking out the window, there was a troubling sign - yellow tape surrounded our building. Were the judges in our office under threat? The thought crossed my mind, but I didn't share it. We learned from the radio that a suspicious truck was found outside the Parliament Buildings, raising serious questions about everyone's safety in buildings such as ours.

I recall in the aftermath that Canadians were ahead of their own government in their desire to reach out to America, to demonstrate that we were united with them in their grief. Besides the 24 Canadians who lost their lives at the World Trade Centre, Canada lost more than that. We lost our innocence too. We remember not just those who perished or the brave firefighters and policemen and women. We pay tribute to ordinary people in towns like Gander, Newfoundland who opened their hearts and homes for 6600 Americans when their flights were grounded and who spent days waiting for the skies to re-open; to NavCanada professionals and the aircrews of those 239 diverted aircraft who brought them to safety in airports across Canada. Ambassador David Jacobson's visit to Gander on this 9/11 is a tribute which brings home how the United States and Canada were united as one in one of the world's darkest hours.

The 10th Anniversary memorial broadcast included beautiful pieces by Yo Yo Ma, Paul Simon and James Taylor with his beautiful piece, Close Your Eyes. It's an example of how music can reach us when words fail to capture the devastation - and yes - the strength of the human spirit to endure.
Let's just say 'thank you'. We remember and we will never forget.


5 keys to Success in a Campaign

Now that Labour Day has passed, voters begin to turn their attention to one of the ultimate fall  'sports', and that is politics. Here in Ontario, as well as a number of provinces across the country, that means the looming elections. With the October 6th Ontario election as a prime example, let's examine the "keys to victory" for the winning Party.

1. Control of the Issue
Pundits claim that there is no real 'defining issue' in this campaign. However, as often as not, an issue does emerge which galvanizes the voters and drives them to the polls. Unfortunately for the Ontario PCs in the 2007 election, the issue which emerged was their support for expanding taxpayer support for religious schools. Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals leaped on that like manna from heaven (no pun intended) and drove it relentlessly to victory. The old saying, "he who defines the issue will win the war" is a truism that should always be front and centre for all campaigns. In this election, Tim Hudak must make "change" the issue.

With his ad buy in full gear, Dalton McGuinty is already trying to make change 'scary'. Expect to hear Mike Harris named as often as Tim Hudak. For Andrea Horvath, she needs to position the NDP as the vehicle for change in the way politics is conducted. The Opposition parties must remember that their real role is to continually hold the government's feet to the fire. In other words, to make the Government the issue. They need to ensure that, while they must have a solid plan with a clear alternative to the status quo, they don't need to over-reach on the policy front

2. A Focused Campaign with a Clear Strategy
Every campaign today has a 'daily script' and the ability to stay on script is essential to a coherent campaign. Local candidates often account for 5 to 10% of the vote; however, if they mess up with controversial comments, then that serves to derail the overall campaign for one or more days at a time, throwing it off message.  The war rooms will be watching like a hawk to nip that kind of controversy in the bud. This will be the first provincial election in Ontario fought in the Twitterverse, so every embarrassing moment will be spread instantly like wildfire.

3. Shape the Ballot Question
It is critical to the swing voters that they ask themselves the right question when they walk into the ballot booth. The fight for the ballot question begins at the outset of the campaign, and all of the campaign should be focused on driving it home - through social media, and the traditional  media; at the doorstep; in the campaign literature and ultimately over the backyard fence.

4. Credibility of the Leader
All elections revolve around the Leaders. The ability of that leader to communicate vision, strength, credibility and -yes, likeability - are critical to success. Mike Harris transformed himself into a "Helluva Guy" [known as the HOAG factor] with whom voters could identify and rely upon. In this election, Dalton McGuinty's likeability factor has been questionable at best, while Tim Hudak is still unknown to many voters. This leaves the Liberals with an opportunity to fill-in-the-blanks as Stephen Harper's campaign did to Michael Ignatieff in the last federal election. Andrea Horvath is also largely unknown and will have to do all she can to get media-and voter- attention.

5. Exceed Expectations in the Debate
It looks like there will probably only be one debate, and the Premier's people will no doubt want it no later than mid-point in the campaign in case things go wrong and he needs time to recover. Hudak's campaign will want to hold it later and bet that Hudak can exceed expectations and gain momentum through Election Day. Although there is not always a clear-cut winner declared; nevertheless, the goal is to avoid a memorable error (John Turner's famous 'I had no option' in the 1984 federal election debate comes to mind), but to exceed media and pundits' expectations that can trigger momentum at the doorstep. There is no doubt in my mind that the debate can be a powerful key to winning an election. So expect to see considerable time devoted to it by all candidates.

We'll re-visit the campaign from time-to-time to see how these 'keys' play out. In the meantime let the games begin!