April 9, 2019
Scheer’s mass text a bold but risky move
Receiving an unexpected text messages can catch anyone off guard, especially when it comes from a federal political leader. Even so, it’s part of a new strategy from the Conservative Party of Canada.
In provinces without a carbon pricing system in place, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, residents have been on the receiving end of a text message campaign launched by Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.
The party pulled phone numbers from its own database but also used software that randomly generates phone numbers based on area codes. As a result, some people who’ve never shared their phone number with the party also received the texts.
The message is a reminder that the national carbon tax took effect on April 1, and that gas prices were set to go up 4.6 cents on the same day.
“Andrew Scheer here. Trudeau?s [sic] carbon tax will raise gas prices 4.6 cents on Monday, so fill your tank. Click to help get rid of it: [link]”, read the text message.
A public relations specialist based in Montreal, Victor Henriquez, says it’s a bold but risky move by the conservatives. “It brings the feeling of proximity to people who already agree with the contemporary party on this position,” he said.
“Now the problem can be for people who don’t agree with them and people who are not happy about the fact that they received a message on their cell phone from someone that is not supposed to have the number.”
Henriquez says using text messages to spread political messages began in the US in the early 2000s, and is now making its way to Canada’s political sphere.
“This campaign is a good example of what technology can bring to politics and it will be very interesting to see what kind of effect it has on people to receive a text message from someone you don’t know.”
While it’s important for politicians to get their message directly to voters, Enriquez emphasises, the party needs to be cautious about the amount of text messages it sends.
“People really react if they receive that kind of message too often,” he said.
“It’s very important for the Conservative Party to use this as a test but to be careful in how they use it [and] how often they use this technology,” he said. “If not, it can be a slingshot against them.”
An emailed statement from the Conservative party says the move is, “a way to communicate with voters in a new way. This will include radio ads, text messages, ads on social media and door-to-door.”
At the same time, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the text message leaves out important information about the carbon tax. “It would be useful if the text actually told the whole story and said in addition to the change in the price you’re actually going to be getting back more money than it’s costing you,” he told reporters.
“That’s the part of the equation that Mr. Scheer has rather conveniently avoided.”