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‘Trying to steal back voters’: Strategists weigh in on Liberal budget messaging plan

The Liberals are deploying a new pre-budget marketing strategy that will see most of the upcoming federal budget announced before it is actually tabled in the House of Commons on April 16.

Kicking off this week with renter-fairness and child-care affordability announcements, and coinciding social media video featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledging to Canadians under the age of 34 that the overall theme for the 2024 budget will be “generational fairness,” the Liberals have two weeks of news conferences ahead.

Practically every day between now and when Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland releases the massive economic document, the Liberals are expected to tease out bits and pieces in an effort to stretch out their ability to market the measures within it to millennials and Generation Z.

On this week’s episode of CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos, the weekly Sunday Strategy Session panellists weigh in on whether the change in fact will pay off for the Liberals.

Scott Reid, CTV News political analyst and former communications director to former prime minister Paul Martin, said this kind of strategy has been employed by past federal governments to dominate news cycles for weeks, but this time the Liberals appear to be trying to “fortify themselves demographically, electorally, against the voters they’re worried about losing.”

“The Liberals are openly saying they’re going after younger voters. And even though this seems like an offensive strategy, because they’re going out there and pre-marketing the items, it therefore sounds to me like it’s actually defensive,” Reid said.

“Because if you’re going to be focusing on younger voters … you’re really trying to hold your own against the NDP. That isn’t trying to steal back voters that have drifted over to the Conservatives.”

But, Kory Teneycke, who was Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s campaign manager and former director of communications for former prime minister Stephen Harper, disagreed.

“I think it is a defensive strategy against the Conservatives. When Trudeau came into office in 2015, he did it with large amounts of support from millennials who were voting, many of them for the first time in that election. Those people have moved en masse to the Conservative party, largely on the issue of housing,” Teneycke said.

“And I think this is a bid to try to bring some of those people back to the Liberal party.”

Reid then suggested that if Trudeau’s strategy was to target Liberal-Conservative vote-switchers, he may be better off going after older women in Atlantic and suburban Canada.

“I know people make this argument that if you talk about the 25 year olds, you might also get their parents. I feel like that’s a little bit of stretch logic,” Reid said.

Kathleen Monk, a former NDP strategist and director of communications to the late Jack Layton, said it’s clear the Liberals are doing this because “they need to change the narrative,” and are looking at new ways to test what political messages and tactics play best with the under-34 voting bloc.

“They need to actually put the opposition on their back heels. And the reason they’re doing this is to kind of get more earned media out of it. So when you’re looking at their announcements, you want to look at who they’re targeting? What is the policy issue set? And how are they rolling this out?” Monk said.

“We saw from this past week that they’re doing announcements across the country, but they’re also trying to tap into different sources of media … they’re actually trying to talk to influencers and other social channels.”

Whether it will work or not remains an open question, Monk said.

You can watch CTV’s Question Period’s full Sunday Strategy Session in the video player at the top of this article.

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