Canadian politicians on the campaign trail can learn a lot from the Toronto Blue Jays. In what will likely be a moribund and tightly scripted election campaign where all play safe and stick to their party lines, it does not seem likely any party will be able to engage Canadians.
In contrast, look at what the Toronto Blue Jays have managed to do in just one week: Land major trades, win exciting ball games and completely turn a moribund season around to re-energize their fans from coast to coast. There is an excitement and engagement from the public surrounding the Jays our politicians would be wise to emulate.
So what are some of the lessons the Blue Jays have to teach?
The first lesson is be bold. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos looked around a sub-par American League where his team’s 50/50 record was enough to keep them in the hunt for a post season birth. He had to make a decision. To stick with what he had which was working pretty well. Or to make some strong moves to land bonafide, championship calibre players. His choice was to pull the trigger on two massive trades with one week to go in the trade deadline.
Anthopoulos realized what our politicians have yet to realize: The status quo is never good enough when competing to win a championship. Right now each of Canada’s political parties are re-treading down careworn paths, retelling the same tired catch-phrases and media sound bites and regurgitating the same old platform ideas. It’s time for someone to step up.
The second lesson Canada’s political parties can learn from the Blue Jays is knowing their timing. Most polls show a close three way race between the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP. It’s literally anybody’s election. Just as the Blue Jays took a leap of faith to bet they can win this year, our political parties need to understand this is their moment and to go for it with everything they’ve got. This is the place and this is the time. For two of these party’s leaders there will be no other.
And the third thing our political parties can learn from the Blue Jays is public engagement. There is a buzz and excitement about this team now which hasn’t been there since 1993 when they won their last World Series championship. How did the Blue Jays do it? By finally delivering on their promises to fans and going out there every night ready to play for keeps.
Elections should be about public engagement. Shaking hands, making speeches from the back of pick-up trucks and finding ways to include everyday people meaningfully in the process. The public has grown tired of slick television ads, negative campaigning, sound bites and tightly scripted public appearances which leave no room for citizen engagement other than to cheer on cue and hold up signs for the cameras while the candidates spout the same, tired lines from town to town to town.
What Canada needs now more than anything is great orators who can communicate the dreams of her soul and lay out a vision people can buy into and believe in. Just as the Jays went out an got players who their fans can invest their post-season dreams in, Canada is calling out to our political parties and politicians. And what she is asking is: “Can they make me believe?”
Whoever answers that question best in the next few weeks will be sitting in 24 Sussex Drive come October.