Push Back Spotlight: Casting the First Stone

Last night’s debate wasn’t a barn burner, but we caught some interesting push back moments for each of the parties. Who was the winner? Did this debate have an impact on voters? Our analysis is coming, so stay tuned.

Speaking of jabs, we took a look at the Liberals’ attack on PC appointments. After issuing a teaser media advisory, Liberal candidate Mitzie Hunter stood up at a podium to accuse the PCs of awarding patronage appointments to failed candidates after the 2018 election. Standing alongside a model train and vats of ‘gravy,’ Hunter declared that “Doug Ford’s gravy train never stopped — it just kept chugging along,” a reference to Ford’s previous days as a Toronto city hall watchdog.

The PC war room was quick to push back, circulating a 2016 press release from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that revealed nine per cent of “federal and provincial Liberal candidates who failed, retired, or subsequently won an election between 2007 and 2016” were given appointments.

Why now? In the leadup to the provincial debate, campaigns are desperate to set the narrative and equip their leaders with effective attacks against their opponents. By releasing their carefully developed opposition research, the Liberals were certainly hoping to throw Ford off-kilter.

So did it work? Here’s what we saw on social media.

Social Media Volume

On Sunday, the Liberal accusations were quick to grab the attention of social media, with over 2,500 posts on the allegations. Unlike the gravy train though, interest did not keep chugging along. By debate day – likely to the chagrin the Liberals – next to no one was talking about it online.

Social Media Sentiment

Our analysis shows it may have been in Del Duca’s best interests for the story to quickly die. Hunter’s “gotcha” moment had many elements of an effective attack, but the percentage of supportive comments online were marginal. In turn, the Liberal attack failed to resonate, with many criticizing the hypocrisy, as well as the elaborate props.

Push Back Verdict – Flash in the Pan

While public appointments have been a sore spot for the PCs, it seems the gravy train left the station as soon as it arrived for the Liberals. It certainly didn’t work to raise the issue on a Sunday, a day where voters are typically less plugged in to the news cycle.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, it would seem Doug Ford’s team knows a gravy train when they see one. The swift and effective decision to claim hypocrisy, made for solid push back against the Liberal play. Liberal supporters became hesitant to engage with the story online at the risk of pointing out their own shortcomings. For a party that wants to disconnect itself from the failings of the past, this criticism left them vulnerable.