Politicians do say the same things over and over: You’re not wrong

Vassy Kapelos:Tell me
if this sounds familiar?
The environment
and the economy have to go… [together]
..hand in hand. People are barely getting by, and they’re definitely
not getting ahead. I believe that better
way is possible. Vassy:Those are
called talking points
and as you can see,
a lot of politicians use them.Some are easier to spot than
others, but experts will
tell you that leaning
on them too much
can risk sounding
like a broken record.
As I’ve always
said–said–said. If that’s the case, why do
politicians use them so much? ♪ [theme]A talking point is to try to
keep the politician on message.
It’s to make sure that the
message that was identified as a potential winner for the
party is brought forward bythe candidate,
by the politician,
when he or she
answers a question.
Vassy:This is Karl Belanger.He’s a political strategist and
former national director
of the NDP.When politicians decide to
freelance and say whatever, that’s when you can create
problems for your campaign. That’s why parties
create a message guide. They’ll identify key positions
on any given topic, then they’ll script short
digestible lines- talking points – to reinforce that message. And then politicians
repeat those lines a lot.And keep in mind,
they spend money
on carefully researching
those messages.Think focus groups,
dial groups, online polls.
Political parties want to be
able to control the message. they want to make sure
there’s consistency. They’re concerned
about their brand. Vassy:Alex Marland is a
political scientist.
He’s writing a book
on message discipline.
He says the 24 hour
news cycle has made
talking points essential.There’s no question that
politicians are using talking points
more than they did, but that’s partly because
they’re being required to speak more often
than they did. Vassy:Leaders need
to be able to respond
to a range of questions,and no one wants
to be caught off guard.
For example…We have recently switched to
drinking water bottles out of– water out of– When we have water bottles out
of a plastic– Sorry. Away from plastic, towards
paper, uh, like drink box, water bottles sort of things. Vassy:Trudeau had just
announced a plan to ban
single use plastics
across the country.
He didn’t seem to expect
a question about how
his own family cuts down on
plastic waste.
One of the earliest examples
of message control in Canada is in this article from 1911.It describes something called
the Speaker’s Handbook.
It was basically an
encyclopaedia of party speeches
and answers to questions raised
in Parliament over the years.
During a campaign year,parties would send out their
handbook to candidates
across the country
to use in their own speeches.
Strategists call this imposing
message discipline.
Today it’s maybe even more
important and that Speaker’s Handbook has evolved into daily
emails with talking points on any given issue
during the campaign. Talking points help them
understand fairly quickly what their party’s
position is and allows them
to be consistent with other members
of their party. It’s why you sometimes
see party politicians and cabinet ministers repeating
exactly the same lines as the party’s leader. The clean environment and a
strong economy go hand-in-hand. People are barely getting by,
they’re not getting ahead. And in the case of local
candidates, parties really don’t
want anyone saying something that’s radically different
from the party line. You cause problems, but– and
you might be ostracized within your party–
certainly by the leadership. On the flip side, Marland says
that raises questions though about the health
of our democracy. What we don’t know as citizens
is if a politician is indeed really forcefully advocating for our behalf
on our behalf and constituent interests
behind the scenes. Or if they are just simply being– the expression
is often trained seals. Politicians also deliver lines
because they want the public to actually absorb the message.From the first rule of
communication is to repeat
repeat and repeat.
When you start to get
bored with your answer,
that’s when you know
that your messageis finally punching through.No one really agrees
on a magic number. Some say you need to repeat
a line seven times, or twelve, or 20 times. It might be why you remember
this from the 2015 campaign. The only choice to keep us
moving forward is a strong stable national majority
Conservative government. So let’s make sure
on October 19th we get a strong
stable national majority Conservative government. Vassy:And this:This is a tougher economy
than it needs to be for the middle class than the middle class and those
working hard to join it. Strategists argue the problem is
really when politicians stick too closely to the script. You don’t want a politician to
repeat word for word the same line over and over
again because then the risk of running is that
you’re not authentic. Vassy:Sometimes when
politicians stick too closely
to a script it can almost sound
like they’re deflecting. Today on power and politics…Earlier this year I asked
Jagmeet Singh if he supports
the development of
the LNG project in B.C..
Instead he talked
about climate change
in a totally
different pipeline.
British Columbia’s got one of
the most ambitious climate change plans in North America. They’ve got an aggressive plan. My concern is that what we need
to do is– we all know this– future of energy in,
not just Canada, but in the world has to be a
future where we’re not burning, we’re not fracking, and we’re
not using fossil fuels. The energy has to be renewable. That’s the future of Canada. And my focus is on right now
we’ve got a project in front of us at
the federal level which is Trans Mountain pipeline. That project cannot go ahead. Vassy: That’s a great answer
for Trans Mountain, but I asked you
about B.C. and LNG. Do you support the project? B.C.’s got a great plan. Communications trainers
will teach politicians to try and circle back
to their talking points. They call it pivoting. Ideally though, they’ll still
sound unscripted. All election candidates
affiliated with a political party will probably have been
told look we don’t want you being robots. We want you to
put things in your own words. Otherwise if you get detected, this is going to turn
into a story in itself. On the other hand, speaking
spontaneously can also get you into trouble. Freelancing for
a political leader you know, can dog in four years
if it’s an important issue. Vassy:This is Stephen Harper’s
former campaign chairman
Tom Flanagan.It was 2002 and Harper
was the newly elected leader
of the Canadian Alliance Party.He was answering questions
when he went off script
and said this
about Atlantic Canada.
There is dependency in the
region that breeds a culture of defeatism. Vassy:Flanagan says Harper was
trying to say that
liberal policies were holding
Atlantic Canada back
from realizing
its full potential,
but Maritimers saw it as a
slight against them.
Well the consequence was that in
the election of 2004 when this issue was still very
much alive in Atlantic Canada, we did very poorly
in that region. We didn’t win nearly as
many as we hoped to win. Vassy:Ultimately, experts
say most politicians
wouldn’t be able to do their
jobs without talking points.
Because we live in a world where
everyone has a camera, it’s just too risky
to come unprepared. ♪ ♪

Maurice Vega

16 Responses

  1. The challenge with over using talking point is it becomes a broken record. For me, I recall the election where Theresa May was using strong and stable leadership during the last election. It got to a point where I thought why the hec does she seems desperate for people to see her as being strong. She clearly has not done the job to remain strong within her party so how is that going to change how people outside her party sees her. As electorate, we are more syntactical of what we are being told by politicians and when you sound like you cant put another sentence together without using a talking point, we begin to think you are in this for yourself only. You have to come across as being genuine and sincere and talking point deters from that image.

  2. My favourite part was about how the federal parties impose talking points onto municipal party members under threat of being ostracized. I mean it's not like he may be well informed to speak on issues that effect his community, even if it "crosses" party lines. Do we really want our political LEADERS to be the type of people to step in line with the party or to advocate and protect our political identities/interests?

    I was just hoping for moral conviction in someone that wants to legislate how we all live…

    "And did you exchange

    A walk on part in the war

    For a lead role in a cage?"

  3. it's obvious that a party needs to have a set of approved messages and values, otherwise being a member wouldn't mean anything
    the strict standards the NDP is setting for their candidates right now is admirable. especially when you compare to the greens, lol, they let anyone in

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