Thursday, May 10, 2007

Promising too much

One of the strategically clever moves by Stephen Harper in the 2006 election was to make small but targeted promises to certain classes of voters, promises that symbolically said the Conservatives cared about and connected with their concerns. The examples that come to mind are the transit and sports equipment tax credits.

It is always better to underpromise and overdeliver. A promise deemed too extravagant to be credible can be an enormous mistake.

That appears to be the case with a promise by Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen who earlier this week promised he would bring the Jets back to Winnipeg. It is extraordinarily foolish to promise something over which you have no control. If by chance you do get elected, it can easily return to haunt you.

But before then there is the risk that not only will no one believe you, but the whole idea will be subject to ridicule. That seems to be the case in this instance. A correspondent tells TC all the letters to the editor of the Free Press were negative about the promise. The move did capture a lot of local attention. Too much it seems.

This excerpt from a column in the Free Press seems to capture the zeitgeist:

City yawns as McFadyen promises return of Jets

Thu May 10 2007

THAT thudding sound you heard Tuesday morning was Hugh McFadyen's Great Big Idea hitting the ground like an anvil dropped from on high.

The Tory leader promised to bring back the Jets.

The city yawned.

McFadyen must have thought this one was a clear winner. He kitted up in a Jets jersey, used hockey great and former Jets captain Thomas Steen as a prop and announced he'd have an NHL team back in the 'Peg by 2011.

He did not say how much public money he'd spend or how he'd ensure the team wouldn't get into financial trouble.

This was a broad stroke promise. My gosh, he seemed to imply, this is such a terrific pledge that only nitpickers, Gary Doer and the damned media would dare question me on the details.

This is a key period in any election campaign. Voters are just now making up their minds. The pledge was clearly an error. The timing means that it could be fatal.

No comments: