The art of sloganeering: How many ways can politicians say ‘change’?
OTTAWA — Change. Forward. Together. For you.
They are the buzzwords of political campaigns worldwide, used time and again in various combinations, to sum up a campaign theme in few enough letters to fit on a podium sign.
On Tuesday, the NDP became the fifth and final major party to unveil its campaign catchphrase, hoping “In it for You” will catch voters’ attention.
Dennis Matthews, a vice-president at Enterprise Canada who worked in the message mines as an advertising and marketing adviser to prime minister Stephen Harper, said “a ton of effort” goes into finding a phrase that can sum up an entire campaign in one short and snappy sentence.
“A campaign will do all kinds of research, look at all of their potential voters and what they’re looking for,” he said. “In a campaign you want to imagine the voter going into the voter booth and asking themselves a question. A good slogan sets up that question so they can only pick you as the only option.”
The NDP’s new slogan points, without being negative, to the idea that the NDP are there to help the little guy while the Liberals and Tories are in it for themselves and their wealthy friends.
It’s similar both to the slogan the federal Liberals used in 2008, “Always Here for You,” and to the Conservatives’ current “It’s Time for You to Get Ahead.”
Such echoes are not uncommon, said Matthews, because “campaigns are referendums on the future.”
“Voters are looking forward so most campaign slogans at least hint at a forward-looking or action-oriented thesis and there are only so many words that fit that.”
“Forward together” was one of Winston Churchill’s most common speech slogans throughout his political career. It has been used by two of his successors as British prime minister — Margaret Thatcher in 1980 and Theresa May in 2017 — and at least two American presidential candidates. Richard Nixon used it in his inauguration speech in 1969 and Hillary Clinton turned to it for her presidential run in 2016.
In 2019, the Green Party of Canada is building on it for its slogan: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.”
The Liberals have dropped the “together” part and are just going with “Choose Forward” in 2019. It’s remarkably similar to the 2004 Liberal theme phrase of “Moving Forward.”
The Bloc Quebecois is using “Le Quebec, c’est nous” — roughly, “We are Quebec.”
In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s slogan in his first successful presidential campaign was “Let’s Make America Great Again.” Twenty-six years later, Donald Trump tweaked it into one of the best-known political slogans in history. “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts are still common (Trump now has to decide whether he can still use it after four years in office).
In 2015, in an election campaign almost entirely about voter fatigue with a decade-old Conservative government, both the Liberals and NDP went with “change”: “Real Change” for the Liberals and “Ready for Change” for the NDP.
Scott Reid, who was a communications adviser to prime minister Paul Martin and is now a principal at the strategy firm Feschuk.Reid, said most slogans are developed as part of an intensive and lengthy research process to suss out a potential path to electoral victory. Polls and focus groups and voter outreach guide “a whole slew of decisions” including advertising spots and which public issues a campaign will prioritize.
“The slogan itself emerges from that,” he said.
As for the actual words? “I don’t believe they matter very much,” said Reid.
Few, if any, campaigns are lost on bad slogans and most slogans end up on the floor as soon as the last vote is counted. Some of the best aren’t even official slogans at all.
In 2011 “a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government” wasn’t the official Conservative campaign slogan but became the recognizable theme for a campaign appealing to voters tired of fragile minority governments.
Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign added “Yes we can” to the political-slogan hall of fame, but his official slogan was actually “Change We Can Believe In.” “Yes We Can” was a holdover from Obama’s previous Senate campaign, a catchphrase he used in speeches, that took off as a rallying cry for his supporters.
As proof that slogans aren’t everything, one need only know that the Green Party of Canada also used “Yes We Can” for its 2006 election effort. That netted the party zero seats and less than five per cent of the vote.
Trudeau’s 2015 campaign is remembered for promising “sunny ways” even though Trudeau didn’t talk about sunny ways — borrowed from Wilfrid Laurier — until his victory speech on voting day.
Matthews said as in any advertising, the best slogans can’t always be predicted.
“Some of this stuff, you’ve got to put it out there and see if it catches on,” he said. “In the marketing world you can be a little lucky and land on something that really catches on. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Freeland says drop in foreign-aid spending is not a cut, Ukraine fight is pivotal
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, speaks during a news conference at Powertech Labs, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 30, 2023. Freeland insists the government’s projected $1.3-billion drop in foreign aid spending does not amount to a cut. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland insists the government’s projected $1.3-billion drop in foreign aid spending does not amount to a cut.
The Liberal budget released this week projects that Ottawa will spend nearly $6.9 billion for international development in the coming fiscal year, which is a 16 per cent drop from last year’s allocation.
That’s despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasking International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan to increase aid spending every year.
The Liberals had delivered a historic boost in aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Asked about criticism from the aid sector about the cut, Freeland said she “wouldn’t characterize it that way.”
She stressed that Canada is allocating $2.4 billion in direct financial aid to Ukraine, and called that country’s fight the world’s most important struggle.
The Liberals have also allocated funding for infrastructure projects in developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, arguing that these countries want investment more than aid.
Representatives of Canada’s aid sector have said they will need to end projects abroad due to the lower-than-hoped funding projected in the Liberals’ budget last week, and they’re particularly concerned about whether aid dollars are being diverted from Africa to Ukraine.
Freeland told reporters Thursday at a press conference in Surrey, B.C., that Ukraine’s fight is crucial to Canada’s interests.
“The fight that is happening in Ukraine today is the single most important battle in the world between democracy and dictatorship,” she said, while defending her government’s record.
“I believe that Canada has a responsibility to be strong and active around the world,” she added.
“We’re making a very big difference. Canada is the eighth-largest foreign-aid donor (in the world). That is a big deal.”
Last October, Freeland was criticized for her response to an African aid expert who said that the West diverting dollars to Ukraine leaves the continent relying more on Russia’s support, an idea she rejected.
“A democracy can only be defended by people themselves if they’re actually prepared to die for their democracy,” she said.
In a later apology for those remarks, she said she was sorry if people found the comments insensitive, adding: “If a white western person has offended someone, the first answer is to say, ‘I really didn’t mean to offend you.'”
At the time, Freeland said the western world needs to recognize that Africa’s current problems stem from colonization.
“These are challenges that have been imposed from the outside. And I think that means we have a high level of responsibility.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.
WestJet pilots to launch strike authorization vote as negotiations fizzle
Members of the Air Line Pilots Association demonstrate amid contract negotiations outside Westjet’s headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Christopher Reynolds in Montreal
The union representing WestJet pilots will launch a strike authorization vote Monday as contract talks with management drag on, the Air Line Pilots Association said Friday.
Bernard Lewall, who heads ALPA Canada’s WestJet contingent, said its 1,600-person membership is “frustrated” after six months of bargaining with a company he claims has failed to seriously engage with it.
The issues revolve around wages, scheduling and work conditions at WestJet and its discount subsidiary Swoop, with 39 pilots opting to leave for other airlines in the past month alone, Lewall said in a phone interview from Calgary.
“WestJet used to be a place where young pilots wanted to come and work. That’s not the case anymore. It’s not just more experienced pilots that are leaving; you have new pilots looking at other places to fly too,” he said, ahead of a union demonstration at WestJet headquarters at the Calgary airport.
“We want to show that the company has to treat its pilots better.”
WestJet said the threat of a strike is a “common and expected tactic” in the negotiation process.
“However, that does not mean a strike will occur. WestJet is committed to this process and will continue to work with ALPA to reach a collective agreement that provides value to our current and future pilots, is sustainable for the company and avoids disruption to our guests,” spokeswoman Madison Kruger said in an email.
Lewall said their wages remain well below the North American industry standard. Meanwhile, pilots are being asked to spend more time away from home. “We’re already away from our families half the month.”
If successful, the 15-day authorization vote would set the stage for the bargaining team to call a strike following a three-week “cooling-off period,” which in turn would begin after the ongoing federal conciliation process wraps up April 24.
That means the union could go on strike or lockout by the May long weekend, which traditionally kicks off the summer travel season.
The strike mandate vote comes amid a severe pilot shortage as airlines struggle to shore up bottom lines badly dented by the pandemic.
One stumbling block is “equal pay for equal work,” said Lewall.
Currently, pilots who fly under the Swoop banner are paid less than those who fly for WestJet. With the company’s takeover of leisure carrier Sunwing approved by the federal government on March 10, Lewall said the union is worried it could lead to the creation of yet another class of pilots with a different pay scale.
“We could find ourselves in a place where there would be three airlines basically within WestJet who are all operating the same aircraft for different wages and with different conditions,” he said.
Proposed last March, the Sunwing acquisition will see Calgary-based WestJet bolster its vacation package offerings as it adds the tour operator to its fleet, though the two brands will be marketed separately.
Poised for completion in the next few weeks, the takeover marks a major consolidation of the Canadian aviation market following a tumultuous year for travel.
WestJet pilots first unionized in May 2017, signalling a major shift in culture at the famously non-union airline.
Since then, other employee groups at the company have also unionized, including flight attendants and certain airport employees.
The pilots’ first union contract, which expired at the end of last year, was the result of an arbitrated settlement reached in 2018. That deal averted a threatened strike, as WestJet pilots had voted in favour of job action after contract talks fell apart.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.
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