“Have dinner with me, Susan.” What a charming invitation. Too bad it’s part of a fundraising campaign directed at 300,000 supporters of the federal Liberal party.
But wait…let’s think about this for a moment. For a $5.00 donation, Ms Soapbox and four of her closest friends and relatives get a one in 6,000* shot at tackling Justin Trudeau on the issues near and dear to their hearts. Cool!
Make no mistake, “Dinner with Justin” is a real contest with Justin as the prize. Typical lottery rules apply including the dreaded skill testing question before the winner, who’ll be selected on Oct 4, can claim her prize (it’s probably a multiplication question and if I win I’ll freeze and Mr Soapbox will have to whisper the answer to me sotto voce from the sidelines).
Every contest has a target. This one is no different. The purpose of the contest is to raise $300,000 in the month of September. This would put the Liberals within spitting distance of their Q3 fundraising target of $2.2 million—a target that’s $1 million less than what the Conservatives are expected to raise over the same time period.
A good chunk of this funding is earmarked to respond to Harper’s vitriolic US-style media attacks. The “Justin sprinkled with fairy dust” video was a shot across the bow. It’s going to get a whole lot worse in the next 700 days leading up to the federal election. Oh joy.
The teaser – the Hamilton video
Trudeau’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman (yes, of the Seagram’s liquor empire) is determined to beef up the party’s traditional donor base. He’s targeting younger donors where they live—on line.
He created the “BBQ with Doug Hamilton” video that accompanies the donation request. The 4:23 minute clip shows Mr Hamilton, a fisherman from Gabriola Island, his sisters Mariah and Jane, and Jane’s husband and son enjoying a salmon BBQ with Justin Trudeau. It’s a pleasant Vancouver afternoon, everyone is relaxed and Justin stays “on message” without appearing too scripted.
And what’s the message? Justin Trudeau is a hard working, middle class, family man (I didn’t say it was an easy message, just that he stayed on point) who sees a need to “do politics differently” and is only too happy to be the “vehicle” (surely there’s a better word) for that political transformation.
The Hamilton clan responded positively. They found Justin to be personable, genuine and optimistic about the future. Clearly they enjoyed themselves. Mr Hamilton paid Justin the ultimate compliment when he said “I’d love to take him out fishing”.
Bottom line: The video was a success and thousands of people, including Ms Soapbox, pried open their wallets and made a small donation.
The Conservatives’ reaction
But not everyone enjoyed the video. The National Post, that bastion of conservatism, described the video as an “arty short” in the style of My Dinner with Andre (surely one of the most boring movies ever made) and printed a “recap” of the video.**
Leaving aside the pot shots at the background music (“mournful acoustic guitar”) and the BC landscape (“too pretty to be realistic”) the most telling criticism was the NP’s reaction to Trudeau’s comment that “People are cynical about politics, but we’re Canadian, so it doesn’t sit right for us to be cynical.”
The NP took issue with this statement, calling it “…a dagger straight to the place where a political reporter’s heart should be.” Hmmm…sounds witty but what the heck does it mean?
Is the NP saying people are not cynical? I doubt it. More likely the NP and its conservative masters are trying to figure out how to respond to a politician who, unlike their own Mr Harper, is both engaging and candid. Note to NP: Ridiculing the Trudeau video and in the process the Hamilton family is not the way to address your problem. May I suggest ditching Mr Harper instead.
Gimmick or doing politics differently?
The “Dinner with Justin” contest would have been just another gimmick if the “prize” was a ticket to a rubber-chicken fundraiser. But it’s more than that. It actually gives a few Canadians an opportunity to have an unhurried conversation with a politician.
Whether the contest winners have any impact at the end of the day remains to be seen, but they’ll certainly have an opportunity to change the direction of communication. Instead of the usual one-way blast coming at us from our elected representatives we have a chance for a two-way dialogue with the man who wants to be our prime minister.
The fact that it’s a perfect Youtube moment that got under the skin of the Harperites is an added bonus!
A really tough question
What happens if I win the prize? Who do I take with me? Mr Soapbox and the mini-soapboxes of course, but I’m still one guest short. I could run a contest on the Soapbox, the commentator with the most comments on this post wins…or I could take my mother, one of the most politically astute people I know, although I’m sure that somewhere over the course of the evening she’d tell Justin he needs a haircut…
I’ll keep you posted.
*The donor count was up to 4,287 on Sept 26, I’ve bumped it up to allow for the last 4 days in Sept.