Justin Trudeau is a great brand. Not just to the millennials and progressive folks in Canada but to many people around the globe. Other countries point to our current leader as ‘wonderful’ in contrast to how they view their own. He is “pro” everything that millennials stand for – LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, pro-immigration, pro-marijuana, pro live and let live. The Trudeau brand is lively, modern, hip. It is right up there with Amazon, Snapchat, Spotify—brands that reflect today and the future of tomorrow.
How does the competition compare? Do the Conservatives, who are about to elect a new leader, have the same excitement in their brand? It depends on who you ask.
Are brands like Sears, Zellers, HMV the types of brands that instil excitement? For some, maybe but for this new world we live in, Conservatives may be looked upon as lacking in the branding battle with the current Liberal leader.
So, how do the Conservatives garner that excitement, lure the millennials? Certainly not with policies that remain mired in the past. They must embrace the opportunities of the future. Take charge of their brand and own it. Too often it seems that the perception of the Conservative brand is managed by their opponents who label them as intolerant, angry–even extremists That needs to end if they hope to rebrand and control their message.
Recently I read an article in the Toronto Sun ‘The looming schism in Canadian conservatism’, by Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network. The article covered topics including the carbon tax, the current stream of immigrants crossing the US border into Canada and the anti Islamophobia Bill M-103. Though these topics are definitely hotly debated within the party, they are not the only ‘hot button’ issues that would cause a schism not just within the party but with voters in the next election.
A few days ago I was at a friendly gathering where a discussion ensued about the potential candidates vying for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party. It was mentioned a specific party member liked much of what leadership candidate Kevin O’leary had to offer but would not support him due to his pro choice and LGBTQ stance.
Kevin Oleary stated his position in an interview on CTV’s Question Period. He said his 24-year-old daughter voted for Trudeau in the last election and threatened to campaign against him in the next election if he didn’t respect reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.
“She’s my high bar. I have to win her back. Not only her but all of her compatriots. They’ve gotta vote for me. So, reproductive rights? Done. LGBTQI? Done. Those are the things that are so important for her and her generation. We as a party have to embrace them. We need them to be part of the Conservative Party.”
It’s been almost 30 yrs since the Supreme Court of Canada removed any criminal laws governing abortion and, yet, here we are in 2017 and some Conservatives are still making leadership decisions based on the candidate ‘s stance on a woman’s right to choose.
Currently there is a Bill before the Senate that protects those that identify as Transgender. Bill C-16 would add the words “gender identity or expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Code, and add the term“gender identity or expression” to different sections of the Criminal Code. The Bill is currently being stalled in the Senate by a few members of the Conservative Party.It’s not just millennials that are putting their support behind many of these issues. I was at a LGBTQ community meeting where Transgender Advocate & Physician Dr. Carys Massarella was speaking. She spoke of when Quest Community Health Centre, a transgender care clinic in St. Catherine’s, first opened. Early in the Centre’s history, parents would bring their
transgender children to the clinic in hopes of turning them back to ‘normal’. Many years later Gen Xr parents along with their Boomer grandparents bring their children/grandchildren to the clinic because they want to ensure their children grow up happy; grow up to be who they are, true to themselves.
Many Gen Xrs support many of the other so called millennial issues including pro-marijuana laws. They watch their aging parents suffer a multitude of side effects of the mountain of prescription drugs they are on and wish they would stop taking so many pills and just smoke a joint.
Argue with a millennial that the immigrants rushing across our border from the US are a threat to Canada when they see an image of a baby being picked up out of the frigid snow by a friendly RCMP officer. Try telling young voters that we should turn away people like Seidu Mohammed who ran across the US
border in freezing cold temperatures which resulted in all his fingers being amputated. Seidu Mohammed fled Ghana over fears of being persecuted for being gay and Muslim.
Will the Conservatives’ brand continue to languish under the tutelage of a capable but unexciting leader perceived to only represent an aging population? Or will the party take charge of its brand and put a more edgy, exciting candidate like O’Leary or Maxime Bernier, the small government champion from Quebec at the helm? Whomever it is they pick, they have a dynamic and entrenched brand to battle in Justin Trudeau.
Look back to the future, 1970’s Canada. A Liberal Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Trudeau was full of charisma and charm and was up against a Conservative opposition leader, although very capable, void of any excitement. Unpopular wage and price control policies that were in place couldn’t defeat Trudeau. Even the hated National Energy Policy of the then Trudeau government could not soundly defeat the Trudeau brand. He was back with a majority after only a few months in opposition.Millennials will likely make up the largest percentage of voters in the federal election slated for 2019. Brand is everything to millennials. What ‘brand’ will the Conservatives vote for in their upcoming leadership race and will it be enough to beat the brand Trudeau? Or will history repeat itself? History has a funny way of doing just that.