Oct. 31, 2022

Improving Conservative Public Communication Strategies

Improving Conservative Public Communication Strategies

I interview Political Consultant Michael Hettrick who served as Press Secretary for Leslyn Lewis's Leadership campaign in 2022. He has worked on Conscience Rights legislation and international freedom of religion issues.

We discuss the Conservative Party of Canada's media, social media and public relations strategies. What has worked well, what needs improving and what the Conservative Party needs to do to reach the people of Canada. Improving Conservative Public Communications starts with having the difficult conversations on how we got here.

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Coffee Breath Conversations:

Welcome back to coffee breath Conversations. I'm your host Russell and today my guest is Michael Hetrick. Michael is a political consultant who has worked with several Conservative MPs and was recently less than Louis's press secretary for the 2022 leadership race. He's on the show with me today to talk about the Conservative Party and what they need to do to start increasing their political communication game. Welcome to the show, Michael. Thanks for having me. Now, I gave a brief introduction. But tell us a little bit more about yourself. Sure, yeah. So I've been involved in politics. From a very young age, when I was about six weeks old, I attended the Liberal Party convention that elected job cuts yet as leader of the Liberal Party. He wasn't my candidate at six weeks old. But I saw the error of my ways pretty quickly and became a conservative by the time I was, I was a year old. So I matured quickly. I've been involved in politics for quite a while, on a volunteer basis for a long time and then professionally, since 2017, worked on Parliament Hill for three years, and then also on to national campaigns, Pierre lumea, his leadership race in 2017, and then less than Louis's 2022 leadership race. So let's go back in time here a little bit, it appears to me that Stephen Harper, he didn't have an expansive social media media strategy from what I saw. And generally, from what I saw, the media was mostly allowed to run wild. I mean, the stop Harper campaign was a really big one that they really pushed into the media sphere, but he was still winning overall. So what was he doing right, that he didn't seem to need a big expansive social media policy? And do you think that that was somewhat of his undoing in 2015? There's a lot to that question, what he was doing right. And I think the reason that Stephen Harper won as many times as he did, is he touched on the,


on the cultural issues that mattered. And more importantly, he spoke to the communities that he needed to talk to you. The whole reason why Jason Kenney became a household name. And eventually premier of Alberta, for better or worse, was because of his skill at reaching out to ethnic minorities in especially at the GTA. But Vancouver was, well, the larger cities, but especially at the GTA, those communities are far more conservative than we give them credit for. And they're especially far more socially conservative, in 2015, for some reason, for whatever reason, and I actually don't know why. I've asked a lot of people about this, who are there. I've gotten different responses. For some reason, the outreach to ethnic communities are simply not there. And the cultural issues that Stephen Harper said it didn't touch on, were also just not they were not as prescient as previous ones, in effect, in some cases, they were really harmful. For example, the discussion of banning the hijab in citizenship ceremonies, it was unnecessarily divisive, and very obviously, an attempt to speak to a certain base about an issue that matters. I mean, we're seeing in Iran, how much that matters, but it was done in a really ham fisted way. Now, if I might segue really quick here. Why do you think that worked for Quebec, but it didn't work for the Conservative Party. Quebec is an entirely different animal. It's just it's entirely different. I think that Quebec, in a way, is more conservative than any other part of the country. And in a way, far less conservative. So at least as far as we English, Anglophones would understand conservatism. The issue of culture matters very much in Quebec, and it matters a lot less outside of Quebec, or at least we're told it matters a lot less outside of Quebec. I think it was, you know, touching on that cultural side of of the question. That's why it became a touchstone issue for the CAC in Quebec. Whereas, I mean, we've seen the reaction to Bill 21, outside of Quebec. I personally worked against it. I thought, it's not a good piece of legislation. It was the one good thing that Patrick Brown had to say, in the future should race. The reality is it matters in Quebec and people care about it. Another thing with Stephen Harper before we kind of move on the 2015 election. The main theme that I saw talking about the Liberal Party was the idea that Justin Trudeau just wasn't ready Do you think that was good branding and good social media to push out there because it didn't really seem to resonate very well with anyone for that I talked to. No, the problem with just not ready is it assumes that at some point he will be. So you open up the door for people to disagree with you. Compare that to like, the branding that was given to Michael Ignatieff, which might be the best branding in political, Canadian political history. But he's not in it for you. And what was the other one just visiting? Those are devastating, and there's no pushback, there's no positive way to spin that at all. I think that just not ready was in miss the mark, and missed the mark. And yet they weren't able to course correct from there. I mean, they talked about his hair, they talked about things that didn't really matter, instead of doubling down on their successes and the and the things that they were working on overall, that people really seem to grasp that the Liberals when they came into power dropped right away. Yep. And they didn't capitalize on on the big success. Well, they capitalize on what they saw as their big success, which was the balancing of the budget. But I actually think the big success is the child tax benefit that they brought in. It's a very socially conservative policy. It's a very conservative policy overall, we won that debate so badly that the Liberals are now trying to claim that they came up with us, as opposed it hardcore. They called it beer and popcorn money, said parents couldn't be trusted with it. Well, it's funny now because the HST didn't they just double the HST repayments to low income families. I have what is it? I think it was a one time payment of 500, up to $500. And then some other things around the edges. As we all know, that's going to just do wonders for inflation. Of course, spending more taxpayer money is always good for inflation. Somehow it fixes things. After 2015. The conservative party really seem to struggle with branding. They and they still struggle, it seems to this day with branding, Andrew Scheer, Aaron O'Toole, now things seem to be changing a bit with Pierre at the helm. But why do you think after 2015, they just couldn't connect with people, they couldn't connect with people in the news. They couldn't connect with people on social media. Where was the disconnect? I'll touch on social media first, because as I think is the easiest one, I think that's twofold. First off, Justin Trudeau is very good at social media. And so he sucks up a lot of the the air in there, just like Pierre did with all of the other candidates during the last leadership race here. And of course, on social media, as we all know, it's not a level playing field. So conservatives at best, the best of times are fighting uphill, with everything else. That is a very big question, because it doesn't just stem from the post Harper years. It goes back all the way to Harper and much further back. conservatives believe that when we have the facts on our side, that's it that should be the conversation should be done. And I split, the famous quote from Ben Shapiro facts don't care about your feelings. But the reality is, feelings don't care. But for facts, it's the entire is the exact opposite. So we have a small group of people who are constitutionally conservative, not necessarily a small group, let's say 20 to 30% of the population is constitutionally conservative. Same thing on the other side, 20 to 30%, is constitutionally liberal. And then you have a large group of people in the middle, who are a little bit of both. And those people need to be communicated to not just with facts and figures, which conservatives are very good at doing are very good at pointing to all of the facts that backup our arguments, because they're all on our side, for the most part, but we're not so good at communicating feelings and emotions. A friend of mine once said that democratic politics is a war waged with emotions. We don't even bring that weapon to the battlefield very rarely. And Harper did. To some degree. That's why just visiting was so successful, because it did touch on that undercurrent of anti Americanism that I think all Canadians kind of feel. Not great. But you know, it's there. Whereas since then, and certainly with with Justin Trudeau and going all the way back, we don't really fight that battle. I think the last person who really fought it well, was Diefenbaker. Who you know, being from Prince Albert, I'm obviously a big fan of and then the the other problem is conservative start the conversation from the assumption that the default is liberal, and that they have to conform. We have to conform our views and our beliefs to fit into the liberal world. fear that is candidate. And that's just it's just a recipe for failure. If you see the enemy the battlefield, you've already lost the battle or something. I can't recall the exact quote. But it's that we see the battlefield from day one and then expect to win the war. It's not going to happen. There's also in every election cycle, there's too much focus placed on winning the next election, and not enough focus on changing the culture in the long term. For conservatives, it's a bit harder, because there's no group to the right of us. Well, there is now with PPC, but they're not elected. There's no group to the right of us that's pulling the conversation in that direction. Whereas with the liberals, they have the NDP, the NDP will never win. They don't. They're really they're not intended to win. They're intended to pull Canada further to the left. We just, we don't have that on our side. But we need to have it in our heads that yes, okay, we want to win every election, obviously. But if we're coming at it from only the perspective of okay, well, we'll sell the farm. It's like an NHL team, trading all of their youngsters to get the veterans in and making room for the Stanley Cup if you do that every single time. But you're not going to have a very successful hockey team in the long run. It's exactly the same here. If we constantly sell off our young ideas, for the veteran ones, we're gonna lose more often than we win. And we do lose more often than we, how can conservatives because everything these days is culture, it all comes down to culture, you say yourself, we don't talk a lot about the emotions and the feelings. Whereas you can see the liberals in the newspapers and online, they they're practically screaming and crying at every little thing, their emotion. They make such a emotional plea that people can't help. But notice, I mean, the most recent one that I can think of is people throwing like food all over priceless works of art that has gained an insane amount of media attention. And this whining and sniffling from it has certainly gained, you know, a lot of traction and people are talking about it. But how can conservatives convey emotion without being destructive, and get people more talking about their issues that matter to the Conservative Party, by telling human stories, I think is the best way. Pierre Polly of is actually really good at this when he wants to. He's the only person that comes to mind anyways, who can make a an economics issue emotional, he tells a story of, you know, a young man 34 of the young age man in his in his early 30s, who's unable to afford his own home in the Ottawa area. It's one of his constituents, and who has to live in his parents basement. And this is despite the fact that he lived her story, he works at the exact same job that his mom worked at, in fact, at the exact same desk all those years earlier, makes obviously significantly more money. And she bought a house with just that job. He can't, it's completely out of reach for the next generation. And that, I think speaks to a lot of people. When you when you phrase things like that when you make them human and give them a face. And, you know, it certainly speaks to me. That's one of the reasons I left Ottawa because there was no future for me there and especially on a on a staffer salary. And other Conservative MPs do this to about issues more than just economics because let's kind of be frank, that's pretty much all folly of talks about. So the rest of the caucus needs to step up and talk about these issues. The big one that springs to mind is a video that was done by Garnet Janice, was worked on by a very good friend of mine named Amanda Ackman. She is one of the best when it comes to political communications. It's called tell me to stay. And it was a video of a young woman who suffered severe depression and attempted suicide multiple times in her teens. And I think in her early 20s, she, if given the opportunity would have taken her life through euthanasia, through assisted suicide. But she didn't because it wasn't legally there. And she's here to tell us the story. So the whole tagline tell me to stay is what the Conservative Party was really pushing when the government decided to allow depressed people with with mental health issues, to kill themselves with the help of doctors. So we have the facts on our side there, right, obviously, but more importantly, we have the human stories on our side. This is an issue that we can win. And it resonated not just with the social conservatives who of course it would already resonate with But it resonated with the general public. And in a way more importantly, with the red Tory wing of the party. A lot of red Tory MPs reposted that video because it spoke to them with the expansion proposed by Quebec for medical assistance in dying, they're now expanding it to to potentially allowing parents to have their newborn child with disabilities killed off. And they're also looking at potentially expanding it to teenagers 14 to 17, who can basically kill themselves with their parents permission, or in a even more my opinion, horrifying idea, they can be determined by the courts to be a mature minor, at which point they can, without their parents permission, apply for and have themselves killed by a doctor. This is a very social, socially conservative sort of issue. How do you think the Conservative Party should be playing this? Exactly? Like I just said, the Conservatives need to be telling human stories. Even if you are a proponent of assisted suicide, I think everyone recognizes that there. There are a lot of cases where it's just tragedy built upon tragedy that has led this person to making this choice. And in Canada at this point, it's you almost become numb to the sheer number of stories coming even from left wing rakes like the star, just story after story of people who are just in a bad place in their life. And instead of offering them a helping hand, we're offering them we're offering them a bullet to the brain. Metaphorically, it's horrific. And the Conservative Party needs to say that it's terrific, that these are human beings. years ago, Justin Trudeau saying veterans are just asking for more than we're willing to give. And then now you have Veterans Affairs, Canada, where they have staffers telling veterans that, you know, maybe they should just consider medical assistance in dying. You know, they call it a medical procedure, because it's a lot more easy for people to digest, when they hear it said is, oh, it's a medical issue. Well, I'm just gonna get a medical procedure, I won't wake up. And but it's not killing myself. It's a medical procedure. It's a very deceitful use of words, overall. But the Liberal Party has been very, very good at giving deceitful takes on things where they're using deceitful language. And the truth really becomes convoluted overall, and social conservatism. How do you think you know you we talked about bringing the human stories in that, but how else can social conservative issues get brought to people where they where they can look at it and say, You know what, this information I've received contradicts the liberal narrative. So I'd like to invest more my time into this. Getting into minority communities, again, is really important. There was an article that was posted, I cannot for the life of me remember the person who posted it, but it was when you linked to this podcast or this interview, he posted that that article, it has stuff in there that I've never heard before, like, for example, how these newspapers, minority language, newspapers, just take CBC articles and Cbc stories and republish them perfectly translated, I had no idea that was happening. I had none. We need to get into these communities and tell them what's going on really going on. Because I'm sorry, there's not a single one of those communities, not one, that is okay with any of this. They just don't know that it's happening. Most people don't know that. Most people are completely disconnected from politics have no idea what's happening, and they just want to be left alone. We need to reach those people where they are. And we need to hold hold the Liberals to camp. And honestly one of the ways of doing so I talked about being positive here like that's in an ideal world, that's all we would have to do is just be positive and tell human stories. But we can't just be positive. We have to, we have to fight the battle where it where it's being fought. And in that way, we need to know what the we need to know where and so I don't know if you want to get into this later. But the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals are is a must read for any Conservative Party staffer, and especially anyone who's in communications. And frankly, it should be mandatory reading for anyone who's remotely political, because it is the playbook that the left uses to dominate society. It's remarkable. As much as a knock great guy as Olinsky was he was very smart. So there's a few that really stood out to me A, Rule two and three are about expertise. So rule two is state within your people's expertise. And rule three is, whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. And I'm bringing this rule up in particular, because the Liberals are really, really, really bad at talking about a few things. One of those is obviously, you know, the economy. They have their, you know, we're giving checks to people. That's the one thing that they have growing the economy from the heart. Yeah. Which, branding wise, that's pretty good. That's a gauge gotta give it to them. They're good at branding. But they're terrible at talking about family. They're terrible, a ton of talking about religion. And they're terrible about talking about patriotism. And there are cultural issues too. But those three things, those could be cornerstones for conservatives. And those, all three of those speak deeply to the communities that conservatives need to win over. Well, just to branch off that a bit, populism that is been conservatives. In my opinion, we've failed to capitalize on populism, because any discussion about populism is instantly derailed to the most extreme fringes of society. We can't talk about patriotism, we can't talk about, you know, our prime minister said, we're a post nationalist country, we don't have a national identity, we just simply, apparently, we just go with the wind, whichever the wind flow is this this time, you know, it goes south. So we're more akin to that this time, it goes more West, we're more akin to that. How do we capitalize on populism in a way that they can attack for being extreme or fringe, because that was the thing with the PPC is they went for the populace angle, and they just got attacked relentlessly for that there were a bunch of white supremacists, all sorts of other you know, they were extreme religious radicals, extreme Judeo Christian radicals. And that messaging work because the basically, a whole group of people who had very valid complaints got pushed off to one side. And the PPC. Now as you can see, they're they're very, they're struggling to make any traction, because they got sucked into that game. I think we can make headway on this issue by by being smart about who we associate with. Because I mean, you can't control what people do. So some people are just going to do stupid things in which you don't expect, there's nothing you can do about that. There are some pretty obvious red flags for people that we should just be aware of, and stay away from. But then the reality is, no matter what we do, the liberals and the media that I repeat myself, are going to find a way to label that as extreme. So you pretty much just have to ignore that, to at least some degree. One of the problems that Aaron O'Toole had was he was incapable of making a decision, that decision and sticking by it, especially when it came to anything that was remotely controversial. And people just do not like someone who they perceive as being spineless. Whether or not he was doesn't matter. It's perception is reality. Compare that to what Pollyanna and Lesley and Lewis did when the freedom convoy went to Ottawa. They both showed up, they wouldn't they talk to people, and then when the media attacked them and said, this one person who was probably not connected to the conflict, let's be honest, had a a confederate flag, like what do you know, the whole the whole group is racist. And they basically laughed at the media told them to stick it where the, you know, it worked. Like when we when we were watching the convoy first get started. My honest assessment was given these guys have their hearts in the right place. They're going to go there and and, you know, try to make some noise. And within two or three days, they're going to be discouraged and leave because then they're gonna get nothing from the Conservatives under Aaron O'Toole. And I think it probably was last lesson and and Pierre going out there and other MPs to going out there talking to people encouraging them, telling them, you know, keep it keep it civil, keep it violence free, and keep the pressure on. That was what, in the end actually put enough pressure on the government to bail first to bring in the emergencies Act, which is a whole nother thing, but more importantly down the road to remove the prostrate options, you can tell me that the restrictions would have been removed as quickly as they are as they were. Without the freedom conflict. It changed the discussion. And it was simply by just picking a place in the ground and standing on it. Not moving back in. And that is how the Conservatives won that debate, essentially. Well, I think that'll be good for our talk on solutions. Definitely. But just before we head to solutions, one thing I want to say the article that you were talking about was from Dr. Sean, talking about, you know, reaching into minority communities who are mostly just getting the liberal media, the liberal propaganda. That was a great article, the and it was a great article, because it was a storytelling article. He talked about his childhood. And at first I was like, Where is he going with this is meandering, and then it was like, bam, now it's, it's ties into this and this and this. That is how you tell stories. While Darsh ons great for that home on the show before. He's really in tune with people. And he's really in tune with social issues that matter to people overall, neither left nor right, although quite frequently gets attacked for being a conservative, although I don't think that's how he identifies politically, hashtag gait. This is actually how we connected was talking a bit about hashtag gait, these hashtags were embedded into the videos, MIG tau men go their own way. And it led to this, they tried to derail the conversation from there. And I was a little disappointed in Pierre, I have to say, because in my opinion, he conceded a bit. When he was in Parliament, he got up and they were telling him, you know, basically, you know, what are you going to do about this? And he turned around and said, Well, you know, we've taken care of it. And as he tried to explain himself, you start stumbling just a little bit over his words. And instantly the table banging in the laughter right, any show of weakness whatsoever. And I compared it, maybe a little hyperbolically to, to allow a struggle session, because here he is, he's on this form of trial, while the domineering party basically gets to control you know, what's being said and what's not being said, in in the conversation. It doesn't matter what he says he's going to get attacked relentlessly for it. And I was a little disappointed, because the same week, Matt Walsh also got attacked on social media. He's a popular right wing commentator. And his response was to tell them all to piss off. Yeah, he just moved on the next day. He he did his show again, and he's moved on. He really hasn't talked about since then. And instantly, all the momentum that the left tried to build up against him. It died out instantly. There was it's like a balloon, all the air just got deflated out of it. Whereas with Pierre, because he conceded a little bit. Now the demands for an apology, were put on the table, and it continued to be put on the table. And I'm sure Katie Telford has had lots of people write op eds, about how giving an apology would be good for the public and good for the Conservative Party. So what are your thoughts on that situation? I personally, I really liked that you compared it to a mouse struggle session. I think, for stuff. We don't compare enough stuff to Mao's China. And we should. It's a better comparison than a lot of that a lot of the other stupid ones we see. And that's really what it was. He was tasked with standing up and admitting his fault. And begging forgiveness from the brain masses of liberals who were never going to forgive him. I agree with he was very disappointing to see Polly of kowtow to that. Especially because there were actual constructive alternatives available. A lot of them, I think. I think one of the things I said to you in follow up to that was never like a conservative leader should never apologize. Because the people asking for his apology are not sincere. He did not do that. He apologized. And as you said it was it was a disaster. It was a full week of whatever your whatever it was they had planned. Going out on a limb probably has something to do with inflation, whatever they had planned, was totally derailed, and it was all about this hashtag to constructive alternative was just simply saying, Yes, I had those in there. I wasn't aware of that. But you know what, I'm glad that they were because that means my video might have been seen by people by men who are disaffected and separated from society. And these men need to know that there are people out there who want them to come back into into society, to integrate and to do crazy things with their lives. The Jordan Peterson approach. Yeah, it's not hard. So you're right there, you're telling a human story you're talking about People who are down and out, and that resonates with people, but instead to hear demonized bunch of people who some of them deserve it, let's be honest. Other people in that group, maybe they don't, maybe they're just lost, and they need help. And now they have another politician who couldn't, you know, had the opportunity to help them with simple communication, and is now you know, just calling them bigots and whatever else is under the sun. It's just a really bad, awkward, missed opportunity. That said, I'm kind of willing to forgive him on this. It's his first mistake. And the reason I'm willing to forgive him is his communications team was not there yet. They were not there. He's now hired up a lot of these positions. So it's going to be a lot less forgivable. His new Director of Communications is a friend of mine, Ben would fit in, he is brilliant. He gets it. He view the views the world very much like like you and I do. Just it's not just about the bottom line, it's about people. So bringing him in, I think is a massive coup for Pierre. And I don't actually expect to see a lot more of that kind of thing. My concern, overall, is there's there's a thing inside conservative politics, especially in the last few years. And it just sort of drags down communication to a lower level, to the it's just institutional exhaustion and institutional fear. I talked to you about this in, you know, in a phone call, when we first connected, I think that that stems from when Harper dealt with the abortion issue. I think he unintentionally traumatized an entire generation of conservative communications people with his response to that issue, suddenly, an issue that that a third of the party cared very deeply about, we know that it's a third of the party, just by the leadership races in the past 1/3 of the party cares about this, if not their top issue. It's there. It's in their top two or three issues. But certainly, we can't talk about it at all. And the ridiculous thing is that they didn't even need to actually have a policy. They didn't give the Conservatives don't even need to actually say, no, here's what we're going to do about abortion in this. All they need to say is, it's a legitimate debate. That's it, because what has happened is this generation of conservative communications people now run everything unintentionally through this lens of what will the media think about this? It is a naturally defensive position, that going back to what we were talking about before picking your Battlefield, there seeding that Battlefield, before it even gets started. Like it's really ingrained, it's bad, and it was as bad under shear. It was worse under Aaron, I hope it's better under palliative. I think, you know, he has the least has the potential for it to be better. But we used to joke that if the Liberals ever found a way to tie the carbon tax to abortion, the Conservatives would suddenly become pro carbon tax. Because that's how bad it was. With abortion. i It's such a touchy topic. And I don't want to dive too deep into it here. Because I don't want us to take up all of our time on that topic, although I think it's a legitimate discussion to be had. Yeah, but it's the title was definitely, definitely, I think conservatives getting nervous about the abortion kind of debate and the issue I noticed online, it's like, as soon as you bring up that issue, everything stops, any other conversation stops, everything gets hyper focus, everyone brings out their emotions, everyone brings out their, you know, belief structure on it, and then everyone pits in on their camps. And then whatever the other issues were, generally get put off to the side in a way I find, you know, conservatives, you know, when it comes to elections, the Liberal Party is good, you know, if you voted conservatives, they're going to reopen the abortion debate. That's been one of their tactics, you know, is and now, you know, especially with what's going on down south, I think that's a legitimate concern for for some people, how is that going to affect us in Canada? But I find it's, it's generally a conservative commentator, unless there's someone like Matt Walsh for the big platform who's done a lot of research and, and that generally, when you bring up that topic, that's pretty much political suicide, and that for conservative just based on societal expectations around that issue, you know, the other one too, Stefan Molyneux, you know, talking about what was his empty the egg empty egg carton that pretty much got him taken completely off social media. idea he got banned from everything is Joe Rogan episode got pulled, just talking about the fact that women are delaying having children more and more because of how society is brought in societal expectations. And he got attacked so relentlessly for it, that he's pretty much right off the internet now all together. So how do conservatives bring up that topic, and still, number one, maintain their platform if they're not an official member of the party. But number two, not scare away the people that, as you said, had been traumatized by previous policy positions, the first thing that conservatives need to realize is that the issue is not going to go away. As I said, a third of the party cares very deeply about abortion. And they believe I believe, we believe that it is murder. And you're not going to suddenly convince someone who believes that something is so that morally repugnant, that it can just be put aside completely, you might be able to convince them that briefly, you know, in this precise moment, we need to focus on such and such a thing, you can make that argument. I think that's, for example, that's how Daniel Smith won, because she's anything but pro life. But she won because they were able to convince people that this needs to be set aside for just a moment. But eventually we'll come back. So conservatives need to realize that and then need to figure out how to deal with the issue. And I honestly think that if the conservative party's not going to take a proactive approach, which they should, I think less than Louis's position was the best one. So no hidden agenda. It's here on my four policies. The two, most notable ones are funding more funding for pregnancy crisis centers, and banning sex selective abortions, which are both at 20 issues, like 80% of Canadians support would support the Conservative Party position on this. That's huge, that's a winning issue. If you're not going to be proactive and go in that direction, then you at least need to be proactive enough that you're making the argument to Canadians that this is a legitimate debate, that people have to be able to have these discussions in the public sphere in order to understand the issue better, because Canada is one of what I think two countries, US and North Korea, I think it is they have no laws on abortion at all. And people don't even know that. Like, they think that there's some kind of term limit, and there's not. So we could get really into the weeds on that. But that's the basic view is conservative party needs to get their act together and realize this is not going away. Fair enough. And maybe worth having another discussion on another time, because like you said, it's a very expansive topic. Definitely. Let's talk a little bit about Danielle Smith. She won the Alberta premiership, and within a week of winning the premiership she'd already issued out at least two apologies. What happened there? Where did she go wrong? And what does she need to do moving ahead to not cost herself everything here? Stop apologizing. Just don't like just don't apologize. Okay. You can say that every once in a blue moon that a conservative does something that's stupid enough that they need to apologize. We just saw that in Saskatchewan. And I think Minister miles Smith brought in a convicted murderer, to the throne speech. That's probably something stupid enough where he should apologize. No, those are few and far between. If you slightly misspeak, like think about the way the Liberals approach this issue, they never apologize for anything. The only thing in all of the years that Justin Trudeau has been in power, the only thing he's apologized for was blackface. There was no way around that he had to apologize. If he didn't he was done. There's no two ways about that. So he recognized Hey, on this occasion, yeah, I gotta apologize. I'm not gonna be able to justify it. Except now they do try to justify it. That's its own thing. In that time, I think the conservative leaders and various conservative leaders have probably apologized for three 400 different things. Why the people calling for your apology are not sincere. I have to agree with you, Michael. And kind of moving into our solutions that we were talking about, even on our phone call previous to this. Conservatives has had this thing where right now they they don't want to lose the will of the public. So every single time something happens, they're they're saying they're sorry, and they're issuing a public apology to people that, like you said, will never accept the apology. They will only use it as an attack vector. And they never apologize themselves for anything that they do wrong. And if they must apologize. It's all of our fault. We all are, are at fault. We all need to have a conversation about whatever, which is a nice way of saying I didn't do it, or my party didn't do it. It's a societal sort of thing. And the Liberals have perfected this. They they've absolutely perfect. How many scandals have they gotten away with? I would have toppled previous governments I would have taught I mean, look at the scandal with the British government that toppled Boris Johnson. Our liberal MPs were out partying, the one Liberal MP they couldn't, he went on vacation, they couldn't even get a hold of them. When they were calling everyone back because they got busted, you know, while they were locking Canadians down, going on holidays. That's essentially the same thing that toppled Boris Johnson's government and look at all the turmoil they're in. When I was in Ottawa, during the beginning of the pandemic, I never saw a Liberal MP wearing their mask, outside of public area, in the halls in their offices in the elevators. Nobody wore a mask. As soon as the cameras were rolling the masks room. They do this all the time. Well, I saw it too with the media so so on election night, I was actually to went to and I watched Maxine Bernie speech on election night in Saskatoon. And the media that were there. It was so interesting. They they got the reporting, oh, my God, no one hears wearing masks. And when I was sitting in that room before the cameras got rolling, I know for a fact, at least two of the reporters weren't wearing masks until the cameras got rolling, and they put them on. And then they made this big scene I really wish I would have I would have filmed them not wearing masks, and then contradicted it, you know, to what they were saying. You know, maybe Saskatoon, the nine undercover police officers that Saskatoon police had in there could have issued them out some tickets as well. But that's another topic on its own. So you're right, the hypocrisy is there. But the thing is, the liberals don't care. And frankly, their base is willing to cover for them on how many times have we seen the cameras start filming before? It's actually time and you see them put the mask on? And then people pointed out and that's another problem with conservatives. Oh, look, look what the left is doing. Look what they're doing. If a conservative was doing that, you know, everyone would be upset. It doesn't matter. You can point that out. But it doesn't matter. What are you doing about it? Because we keep pointing at Oh, imagine if a conservative said that? Well imagine if they did it doesn't matter. A liberal said and they're gonna get away with it because their base will excuse anything any bad behavior, because they're in it to win it. Yep. This actually that what you're talking about their that actually taught touches on one of the other Rules for Radicals that I think is really important. It's it was rule number eight, I think it was, which is keep up the pressure, or keep the pressure on one of those two. That's something when when Andrew Shearer was House Leader back in the day, and then I guess, again, now, they were very good at doing that in the house. But we need to do they need to do that outside of the house too. And, as you said, like if they just go if a conservative were doing that, okay, and if a conservative are doing that the liberals would not let it go. It'd be like a dog with a bone. So maybe you should act like a liberal here and start pursuing the issue, because there's nothing that people hate more than hypocrisy, and there's no one more hypocritical than a liberal. But the the issue though, is that the Liberals will excuse hypocrisy, this, this is all part of the radicalization, you know that we talked about the radical left and that little excuse racism. I mean, the Prime Minister fired an indigenous woman in the highest position of law enforcement in the country for not doing basically what amounts to, you know, illegal act with deferred prosecution. And the left, forgave him for it. That wasn't a big issue because to them, they there is no amount of bodies stacked up in the public square, that would make them change their mind on backing their side. It's going back to you know, like the Maoist Red Guard. The problem with Mao's Red Guard is when they radicalized the students, eventually the students turned on the teachers, these liberals, they they're afraid that the mob will come after them, so they will double down on anything to win. And the things we've seen excused are incredible. So for you, what do conservatives need to do to win? What is the ultimate solution here? What do conservatives need to do to start winning? Okay, so so first off on that note, the liberals and liberal supporters will forgive anything, as you said, but Canadians won't. Canadians have a breaking point. And I think the only one of the only reasons why it hasn't been reached, and it kind of has I mean, we're talking a government that has won two consecutive elections with the lowest percentage of popular vote in history. I think it is back to back. So it's it's pushed through somewhat. It's just a very efficient liberal vote. One of the other reasons that I don't think it's pushed through enough for the Liberals to lose is because we don't really make the Liberals live by their own rulebook. But they make us the bars. And there's two groups of people that will inevitably be hypocrites, liberals and Christians. And the reason Islamic I'm a Christian, just for clarify clarification here. But the reason is, you it's very hard to be perfect. And the Liberals have so many rules, that it's impossible to follow them all. And the Christians have such a high standard, that it's impossible to really ever be exactly Christ like at all times. But there's a liberals, it's impossible to follow all of the rules they have, it's impossible to follow contradictory rules of which they have many. So we know the Liberals are going to be hypocrites. They know we're going to be hypocrites. They call us out. We don't call them why, like not really will do it. We'll do it for short bursts, but then we let it go. That's what I think it's so important that what we're doing right now with what the Conservatives are doing right now with Bill hurt, and his political interference with the RCMP is investigation of the maritime shooting. It's so important that the conservatives to not give up on this issue, calling for his resignation. Anytime he stands up. He should be met with cheers and he should be met with calls for his resignation. If he shows up at a press briefing, there should be conservatives there behind the press yelling at him calling for his resignation. Don't let it go. What he did, politically speaking is unforgivable. And he needs to be held to account for it. Will the conservatives do that? I don't know the test. It's it's hard to keep it going constantly. Well, you and I kind of talked before about you know, comps, and what conservatives need to do comps wise. And I know never apologizing is one of them. That was one of the key ones that we brought up was that under no circumstance, are you to apologize. And if you need you must apologize. You apologize directly to the people that need to be apologized to and you don't make a big spectacle of it. Yeah. So section 100%. Well, Matt Walsh said it you can only be canceled if you participate in your cancellation. Yeah, but the thing is, why are we hearing this from right leaning commentators and social kind of pundants overall, and this isn't something being done within the comms team itself as a strategy. Well, I like I said, I think part of it does have to do with those Stephen Harper years, the terror of you know, what does it begin to say? And also, along those lines, how can we make the media our friends, and they're never going to be a friend. So just stop with that. I also think, like the constraint, there's lots of individuals within conservative comms the conservative comms group of both now and in the past who are really good at what they do, like the former, like comms director for lesbian Louis, Josh Gilman was, I think the deputy comms director for Andrew Shearer at the end of his term. And while there, they got a lot of good stuff done. The problem is, we need to professionalize conservative communications a little bit more. I think that first off starts with firing everyone left over in the leaders office, who is from the previous regime? I hate to say that because I have friends who are working in there, but everyone needs to go. And then if your question re you know, get a getting your job back, you can reapply. And you can go for an interview, where they determine Do you understand what Pierre Polycom is trying to do? Do you have the right mindset? Do you mesh with what Ben would for them is trying to do. And if you do, great, come back and you can have your job. But it doesn't just stop there. It needs to be run much more like a professional business and much less like a group of people trying to win an argument on Twitter, which is maybe an uncharitable way of look of discussing the past, but that's kind of it was just a bunch of disparate parts going in different directions. And I'm saying this from an outside perspective, I was never a member that comes to him just to be clear. So I don't have an inside scoop on this, this just from an outside perspective. So what I do, like I said, fire, rehire, bring in these people. And right off the bat, you make Rules for Radicals, and you make the art of war, mandatory reading, both of those need to come in. You get your copies of those books, you head home, you read those, you don't come back in until both of them are read and annotated. The Art of War not so much because it has a lot of things that are great. With communications itself, although there's, there's a few like Do not interrupt your enemy while they're defeating themselves. But because it sets in the mind that communications is a type of war, it's a battle. So if you come in with that mindset, then you're already further ahead than we were before. And of course, Rules for Radicals because you have to know your enemy, you have to know what they're thinking. Then you you wrote constant controls. And I know that this is something that was done in the past, but it needs to be done more aggressively, comes drills where crisis after crisis after crisis happens, and you ingrain it into the staff that they never apologize, it is always about talking about the positive thing. Now, obviously, there, there are cases where there are apologies that are going to have to happen, because we don't want to be hypocrites to the level that the Liberals are. But we do want to stand our ground, which was like that was a whole campaign of Pierre Lemieux in 2017 was literally just conservatives, you need to stand your ground. And we still have not really learned that lesson. It drill that into into the staff. And then you begin every single week with a media strategy that goes hard after liberals on X issue. If it's inflation, you talk about inflation, here are all the things we're going to talk about. If it's cultural, if it's euthanasia, and assisted suicide, here, all the things we're going to talk about. And if anyone tries to pull you off of that, and immediate personnel pulls you off of that you answer their question, and then you attack the media for not reporting on the issue that actually matters to Canadians, which is this issue we're talking about here this week, you know, matters to Canadians, because first off there would have been polling done, but also because we say it does. That's what the Liberals to we need to learn from them. The reality is, I think a lot of conservatives, like current MPs, current staff previous, even ones coming in, they want the media to like them, because it's natural for people to want everybody to like them. Nobody, very few people want to be the person who's who's hated. Very few people actually enjoy that. And those of us who do should probably get our brains checked. But the reality is the media never will, the media will not like us, they will not like what we have to say we're never going to win them over. So just stop trying. It's the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result, which I don't think was actually an Einstein quote, but it's attributed to him. Either way, it's a good quote. And yet we continue to do it. So our our conservative columns are the definition of insanity. I think the final thing that I would like conservatives in general to the one thing I'd like them to take away from this, if if any of them are listening is Be brave. Just be brave. You are in the right. You know you're in the right. Be brave and stand your ground. Listen to what Pierre lumea said, all those years ago, the break if people want to reach out to you, how can people get in contact with you? Well, my DMs on Twitter are open so if you want to reach me there look like you did feel free. We can connect that way and move on

Michael Hettrick Profile Photo

Michael Hettrick

Political Consultant

Michael is a former Conservative Party staffer on Parliament Hill where he worked on Conscience Rights legislation and international freedom of religion issues. He served as the Press Secretary for Leslyn Lewis' 2022 Leadership Campaign, and was the tour aide for Pierre Lemieux's 2017 Leadership Campaign. He currently works as an independent political communications and operations consultant.