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VIEW: The Conservatives will try to rebrand, says Den Tandt

Postmedia political affairs columnist Michael Den Tandt writes about how Prime Minister Stephen Harper “can still extricate himself and his party from the swamp in which they now find themselves” in the coming weeks.

He says that in the “retooling” strategy to overcome the current situation, “Harper will warm up a little, and begin speaking directly to Canadians about his vision of the country. The ideal launch pad would be the Conservative policy convention in Calgary, June 27 to 29.”

Den Tandt also speculates on a “rebranding” strategy wherein the “Conservative brand is transformed from oldish, male and grumpy, to youngish, female and sunny”. In this scenario, Vic Toews and Julian Fantino get dropped in the imminent cabinet shuffle, and Michelle Rempel, Kellie Leitch, Candice Bergen, Chris Alexander and Pierre Poilievre are brought forward. He writes that “most insiders expect a thorough reboot” meaning Jim Flaherty retiring, and John Baird, Jason Kenney and James Moore changing portfolios. Also within this “reboot” strategy, “glasnost” comes to the party “with fewer talking points” for the Conservative caucus and the “near-constant character assassination aimed at the opposition leaders” is replaced by positive-messaging about “surging job growth, continuing low inflation and interest rates, and a balanced budget”.

But he also points to the electoral challenges of the “backbench spring” strategy. He comments, “The more these MPs speak up about their deeply-held beliefs, the harder it is for Harper to persuade Ontario and British Columbia swing voters — the key to the 2015 election — that they can safely re-elect the Conservatives, without fear of a social-conservative legislative revival.”

And most significantly perhaps, he says that “tweaking, reshaping or rebooting” can only go so far, and to address the Conservative woes “it may require something more fundamental, such as change at the top”.

It should be an interesting summer.

For more, please read:
NEWS: Conservative MP resigns saying PMO ‘has too much power’
NEWS: New riding boundaries cause tensions within Conservative party
NEWS: Harper to ‘rally his troops’ at Conservative convention in Calgary, June 27-29