Take it from the Topp

Last night I got this from a friend in the campaign.  It’s from NDP Campaign Manager Brian Topp to his campaign staff, although it was sent through Jan O’Brien rather than directly from the KoolToppGuy himself.

His letter makes one thing clear.  This man isn’t taking any of the blame for the worst major campaign ever run in this province and arguably in the country.

From: Jan O’Brien

Sent: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 1:02:35 PM

To: All Staff – Canada Way; All Staff

Subject: FW: The morning after

Sent on behalf of Brian Topp:

Dear colleagues,

This isn’t the note I was hoping to write to you this morning, and I am very sorry indeed that that’s the case.

So let me get right to it: this heartbreaking result had nothing to do with the work of our campaign team.

Stop right there.  “Had nothing to do with the work of our campaign team?”  Just think about that for a second.

“Nothing?” As in not at all related? Or completely separate from?


Would you say that’s the right word?  Not me.

The wrong campaign. The wrong strategy. The wrong ads. The wrong polling.  The wrong debate prep.  The wrong emphasis on social vs. mass media.  The wrong get out the vote strategy. The wrong…

Isn’t it simpler to ask, just what was right?

Now, while this makes me very angry, I do get what Topp is trying to say.  He’s saying:  ‘Thank you for your work. You worked unbelievably hard and did a good job.  And with such a disastrous result – amongst the worst in Canadian history – few will recognize your contribution.’

Topp should then have added, “the disastrous result had everything to do with the leadership of the campaign team.”

Here’s the letter Topp could have and should have sent to his staff:

‘Many of you worked in the centre of the 2009 campaign and in the space of four weeks took us from 13 points back to 3 points down, with momentum.  You did that with half the staff and a quarter of the money we had this time.

‘Last time you helped run a campaign that defined the Liberals.

‘This time I ran a campaign that didn’t lay a finger on the Liberals and allowed them to define us.

It also failed to inspire people to vote for us.

‘Because of that the Liberals took a 20 point deficit and turned it into an election day rout.

‘You’re still as good as you were in 2009.

‘The difference was the leader and me.  Our strategy was a disaster.  It was experimental and founded on naive and delusional fantasies about politics. We let you down. Just as we let the party down and the province down.

‘For that I apologize and promise I will never darken your door again.’

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68 Responses to Take it from the Topp

  1. RS says:

    I am very disappointed in the outcome. The key players did not execute, the game plan was flawed, the coaching ineffective, and the GM is left fumbling for excuses knowing full well he failed to provide the team with the apparatus required to prevail.

    Brilliant game as usual Ian! Must be a scoring record for the number of comments. I don’t think it’s unsportsmanlike to run the score up in this situation.

  2. Arleigh Chase says:

    From the information posted above by Gerald at May 16, 9:09 p.m., I would say the rank and file members of the NDP have a good basis for a class action suit of possible fraud against Mr. Topp. I understand that the Manning Centre in its coaching for conservative politicians has advocated infiltrating opposition campaigns by placing ringers in key positions. Clearly Mr. Topp did not effectively execute his job duties as NDP campaign manager, letting Christy Clark’s campaign land all the punches while Adrian Dix was told to stay “positive”, i.e. stay quiet. And, just as clear is Mr. Topp’s partnership with Ken Boessenkool, Ms. Clark’s former Chief of Staff, a very elite position within the Liberal chain of command.

    If this were the United States, Mr. Topp, Ms. Clark, Mr. Boessenkool, his consultancy partners, the Manning Centre and the Liberal Executive council would, in all likelihood, be facing some very serious jail time under the RICO statutes which were enacted to for anti-racketeering purposes. But, alas, we have no such corrective measures and certainly no regulatory agencies or police forces uncompromised enough to take on and prosecute such an investigation. Indeed, with Chuck Strahl’s connections to the CSIS oversight committee, I wonder what additional assistance may have been brought into this election scam.

    I do have to grudgingly acknowledge how well executed this plan was and still is. Everyone’s focused on “incompetence” and the “mistakes” that were made when I would argue quite the opposite: this team of thieves executed their roles perfectly, pulling off the heist of the century and using sleight of hand to keep everyone from looking at the criminal nature of this scam. But after all, they’ve stolen everything else in this province – what’s another election or two?

  3. racerdave says:

    i am so disgusted with the campaign and its peolpe who thought taking the high road was a good plan. it did not work last time and was doomed for failure this campaign. when we rid this province of the socreds we told everyone who would listen just how corrupt they were. this time we said that’s change the province but we forgot to tell them why b.c. deserved a change in government. most young voters have no idea how christie was during her term as education minister and how involved her family was in the b.c. rail sale,or any other of the scandals we put up with while these socreds/liberals played with our children’s future. i have been in this party too long. time to just get out and spend time golfing and looking after ny grandkids. good luck , the next 4 years are going to be hell and remember we think we are better in opposition than in government.

  4. Kevin Logan says:

    Well said Arleigh,

    As we see the post mortem messaging and the new mandate missives, as well as all the bit players chiming in making sense of it all. Its enough to make you puke.

  5. Kevin Logan says:

    Oh by the way. Something is not right about how bold and out front they were with all this. Opening the office with the enemy is something you would do after the campaign, and even then its a pretty serious bit of Chutzpah on display.

    Topp is a “out of towner.” And will happily trek back to Ottawa, as are many of what Tom Fletcher and the Natives call “Seal Team 6″ and no doubt they will slip back into their black operative back rooms.

    Its almost as if they are laying bait with stuff like the Topp Kool and Guy stuff don’t ya think? I mean even the name is a way over the Topp! Right? Remember all we saw was a news story and a one page website. That kinda thing these guys can throw together in about 15 minutes.

    There is much more to this story, including the ties to Hill and Knowlton who brought you the first Iraq war courtesy of the Embassador’s daughter and her claims of incubator babies being, well you remember ” the narrative.” And that too was allowed and hung right out there for everyone, even W5 ran a story, you know what I mean?

    The bottom line is this “loss” was choreographed perfectly the NDP bolstered the overall narrative with every step, it was a like a beautiful dance.

    If Topp is anything, he is consistent. He has ran two campaigns, both had the same effect. We lost and the oilers got their majority.

    His leadership campaign fractured the left in the party and Hill and Knowlton errrr , Lavigne stick handled the DDOS attack on the internet vote into oblivion.

    Next up for Topp was pulling the teeth of the NDP by removing “state owned enterprise” from the constitution, so even if, by some strange bizarre fluke, the NDP found itself a power lever, they would be without capacity to pull it. Could be one day that the oilers have to deliver change given the scandalous and atrocious record of the Harper crowd.

    Then it was off to BC to cash in the rest of his political credibility with the NDP and drive Jacks campaign bus into the ditch with Dix in it. Hill and Knowlton cut the break line and Lavigne and Rutkowski where there to ensure the thing went right off the cliff.

    Its that kinda handy work that gets ya a job with the “ethical oilers” and your name on the shingle. Me thinks.

  6. Kevin Logan says:

    So in conclusion, be prepared for the Kool Topp Guy website to come down and the shingle tossed. Remember they never even registered as a lobby, probably dont even have a business license. The “narrative” will be “Well with the inevitable NDP win we thought it best to let Topp in the door so we could have some access to the new NDP leader. Now with all that washed away, we decided to trade Topp, no more purpose and too much heat, it was fun well it lasted but who knew we would not need a pipeline into Dixs office?”

    Then Topp can return to the fold and carry on………

  7. Ian:

    With the greatest of respect, the insanity of the conspiracies being offered here by sime of the usual suspects detracts from the exceptional perspectives you and oyhers have offered.

    It’s sad to see the unfortunate and disappointing election outcome degenrate into which disaffected NDP nutter can come up with the most ridiculous and far fetched scenario.

    The real heart of the NDP have taken this in stride and understand where the mistakes were made. The recriminations are counterpeoductive and mindless.

    Frankly, if you want to have a useful retrospective, kick Jenny Kwan out of your party, as I can assure you, even with the same strategy, Carole would have made Christy look like an amateur and their would have been no idiotic Kinder Morgan reversal, in aid of satisfying phantom environmental catastrophes.

  8. Michael Nenn says:

    I’m not going to point the finger at anyone for I’m sure there’s enough finger pointing going on and then some. I will make a comment on one issue and that’s the pipelines. Whomever came up with that gem needs to widen their perspective. The pipeline issue was easily dealt with with following statements.
    “The BC Liberals have taken any decision on the pipelines out of the hands of the citizens of this province and given that responsibility to the Federal government. Additionally if the upcoming FIPPA is signed any chance of BC successfully opposing any pipeline will be moot as that decision will then be in the hands of a secret international tribunal. The federal NDP recently brought forth a motion to abandon that agreement (FIPPA) and have public consultations in order to ensure that any such agreement would be in the best interests of all Canadians, yet that motion was defeated in the house of commons by the Conservatives and Liberals together. Thus any stance on the pipelines is irrelevant until the issue of FIPPA is settled”
    In other words the main stream media, along with the BC Liberal strategists pushed the BC NDP into taking a stance that should never have been taken.
    Having said that this party needs to put the past behind us and start preparing for four years from now. We need to find the resolve within ourselves to ensure we are ready at that time because God only knows what shape this province will be in by then. We need to ensure that we reach out to the youth, to new members, to have constituency association meetings on a regular basis that brings everyone together for debate and resolutions that go forward to the provincial caucus so in four years this party can state with pride that here is our platform that was built on the foundation of the grass roots of this party. The BC Liberals and the MSM are waiting to see us destroy ourselves and if we did we would be playing into another one of their traps. Already the tweets are out as to whether or not this party will last. Ignore them my friends, for if we fail the consequences will be unspeakable for the people of B.C. and for future generations in this province. I witnessed Ralph Klein destroy APL and privatize it and mark my words this is the goal of the BC Liberals.
    NO, we need to stand together and understand that we actually have been given a wonderful opportunity. An opportunity that can’t be wasted. I see one future with Christy Clark as the Premier. Her arrogance after this win, will now be so huge that it will blind her. The BC Liberals after the scandals of the last 12 years and specifically the last 2 will think they are invincible. This will be their achilles heel. To show the people of B.C. just how much the BC Liberals have destroyed and will continue to destroy. MSP premiums, rate hikes, higher fees, reduced government revenues (on purpose I might add) to ensure that public services disintegrate under lack of funding so when they finally fail they too can be privatized.
    Lastly while I don’t believe in negative campaigns I certainly do believe that the people need to be reminded of how corrupt and arrogant this government is. And they need to be reminded on a regular basis. Not personal attacks but the track record. I’m sure they will give us plenty of reasons in the next four years. We need to ensure that the voters know those reasons as well. We need to ensure that as Howard Beale put it the citizens “Are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore”. – (Network 1976)
    So quit pointing your fingers, I admit I lashed out as well on May 15th. Yet in the end I pointed that finger at myself and asked the question “What can I do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?” do we sit complacent until 6 months prior to the next election or do we actually commit now to ensure that we hold those meetings, we expand our membership and ensure that everyone contributes so unlike other parties, we are truly a bottom up system of democratic accountability rather than a top down approach.
    So we are now at a crossroads, we can take the path to self destruction and fulfill the wishes of the BC Liberals and the MSM or we can raise our heads up high, and rekindle in our hearts the reasons why we joined this party in the first place. We owe it to those before us. We owe it to ourselves. And most of all we owe it to our children and their future.

  9. Arleigh Chase says:

    I see the RCMP’s unofficial mouthpiece above is doing his usual trolling. It’s difficult to understand how someone who has so thoroughly examined Ms. Clark’s corrupt practices can be so naive about how the world really works.

  10. Arleigh Chase says:

    I, obviously, wasn’t referring to Michael Nenn.

  11. Ian says:

    Kevin, that last one crossed the line somewhat. I try and bring a light touch as editor and the line I draw can be quite flexible and even arbitrary. But it’s my blog and I’m responsible for it and I feel Kevin’s attack on Alex crossed my personal line. I ask you to please try and stay on topic and if you’re going to get personal attack me rather than another commentator, please and thanks.

    On the actual issues raised regarding lobbyists. Yes, a lot of operatives from all parties work for lobbyists. As someone who has consulted in the private sector and would now have to register as a lobbyist if I did the same work I do not see the issue. It is good that people offering advice and relationships must register and abide by some rules. Personally I’d tighten up the rules significantly, but lobbying has and will always happen and it’s better to know about it than not.

    There is no evidence that lobbying activity by anyone had any effect on the poor decisions made by the NDP campaign. That to me is just an odd conspiracy theory that deflects from the bigger and more destructive strategic mistakes made by the campaign, starting with the foolish, naive and morally wrong decision to not offer a strong critique of the Campbell/Clark government that would move likely voters.

    To my mind that’s where the campaign critique should start.


  12. Constance says:

    Fundamentally, the Leadership of the BC NDP lacked good judgement. It began with those who were elected or engaged to manage the Party between elections and it extended to the hired guns they retained to develop and deliver the campaign.

    There is no conspiracy in this – it is pure and simple; bad judgement!

    One builds from strength at both policy and organizational levels. That maxim was obviously thrown out the window in this presumptuous, ill conceived and expensive recent electoral exercise.

    Until recently the New Democratic Party embraced the notion that good jobs, and a thriving economic base to support them, would provide the ‘common wealth’ necessary for equal and ready access to health care, education and social programs.

    The NDP’s central campaign was once designed to buttress the efforts of those in the field, not ignore them. Ultimately it is really quite simple; identify support and make sure they get to the polls.

    At the end of the day, an election campaign is a preview of governance. If you can develop good policy, keep your eye on the prize and run a tight ship during the campaign – with all the pressure that entails -you might provide good government.

    Leadership is many things, including the wisdom to pick the right crew. Sadly, that did not happen.

  13. Kevin Logan says:

    An attack on AGT Ian? It crossed your line? Really? Have you ever read his bloggy thingy? If you have I am sure this sensitivity of yours around baseless political attacks and outright hubris would offend you to the point of not returning.

    If I am attacking then clearly AGT is on a rampage, that crosses all your lines and pushes all your buttons.

    Oddly it is indeed those here who are asking questions about the highly dubious relations between our campaign and what is undoubtedly the “enemy” that are being attacked as conspiracy theorists.

    Lets be clear, Topp has ran two campaigns, each one has the same end result we lose and those driving the Petro State agenda win majorities. In the Federal campaign, during the single largest Liberal collapse in our history, we won two seats outside of Quebec. Yet we accept these results as manna from heaven and those delivering them are somehow “Gurus.”

    A look at AGTs work is a good insight into the thinking of “todays” conservatives. They clearly think they own and operate all the parties. AGT a Zalm operative of all things, lectures us about what the heart of the NDP is while calling us conspiracy theorists, and I am the one attacking, being offensive and crossing some arbitrary line of decency?

    Its not me partnering with the enemy, its not me even reporting that I have a clue what the heart of the NDP is, as a lifetime member and activist I still have a hard time understanding them. So in my effort to do so, I look at the results of the people who are stick handling our electoral fortunes and I ignore their self serving rhetoric. In doing so I see a lot of very b0ld and consistent behaviour.

    Dont get me wrong, I have known people like Lavigne since college, liked him then and like him now. However, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the firms they work for are huge and lucrative outfits, whose clients have a relentless drive to shape government and policy. Anyone thinking that these operatives check their livelihoods at the door to go to bat for the little guy in a thirty day campaign needs their head examined.

    Even the furthest removed observers would recognize that in order for the NDP to come out on the bottom in this election, a great deal of creativity, ingenuity and “black ops” were deployed and required to pull off such an upset.

    If it is indeed the case that the NDP has resigned itself to putting the Progressive in Harper’s Conservative and our purpose is to prop up and ensure the morphing of Canada into a Petro state, than ya, AGT has his finger on the pulse of the heart of the NDP and there is no need to look any further into the way we manage our affairs.

    But if in fact the NDP is responsible for providing an alternative and a governing option for the majority not interested in what Harper and his conservatives have to offer, than we damn well better get our heads out of our ass and start asking the hard questions.

  14. Adrian B. says:

    Bravo Ian for calling out Topp on this email. He is clearly making a ham-handed attempt to abdicate responsibility for this mess with that risible little comment about how the campaign somehow had nothing to do with why the campaign was lost. Topp deserves a lot of direct blame for why this election was botched, amongst others, though I would not go quite as far as some of my Comrades in these comments here. But yes, instead of being perched on his ivory tower glowering down on those below him with smug contempt, Topp should have listened to rank-and-file members and the grassroots and he could have learned something and run a better campaign. I still hope he can obtain a seat in Quebec although this disaster may stymie those efforts, plus his credibility is damaged after the disgraceful and contemptible Preamble he was complicit it drafting. A direct and incontrovertible betrayal of all of his lofty rhetoric in his leadership run about keeping the NDP’s principles. He won’t even admit what he did and that the party is no longer officially socialist, I guess he thinks the members and public are so stupid that he can purge the party of its core beliefs without us noticing.

    Concerning the election, shocking how the NDP did not learn the lessons of the 2009 campaign and again refused to sufficiently engage the Liberals on the economy with a compelling and clear case. And the Liberals were very vulnerable on the debt, deficits, boondoggles, and the affordability crisis. A relentless, populist narrative taking the offence about “Is your economy better off since the Liberals have been in power? Have prices gone down, is it easier to make ends meet?” etc.. might have been effective with the blue collar working class, as indicated in Chilliwack-Hope. And remembering 2009, the “modest” and ambiguous approach in this cycle may have again failed to inspire the base again. Plus the complacency of the unprecedented long-term lead, and the burn-out factor of activists after years of different campaigns and events going on one after another since the HST was introduced. Finally, I would argue that the supporters of the NDP’s controversial opposition to the carbon tax in 2009 have been vindicated a little, kicking poor people in the face with a greenwashed HST is not the way to win rural BC in elections or the public on climate change.

  15. Maharg says:

    Thank you Ian for your thoughtful evaluation of a very disappointing and ineffective NDP election campaign strategy. Astute remarks by folks like Kevin Logan and others on your blog are also both respected and appreciated.

  16. e.a.f. says:

    well we know the NDP lost the election. we know the NDP hired a company to help then run their end of the campaign. Now that company says they had nothing to do with the NDP loosing. Right! Sounds like a comedy routine for the Daily Show. If anyone is a major player in a campaign and it looses, they had something to do with it. I am sure the company would have grabbed as much credit as possible had the NDP won.

    What caused this reversal of polls/fortune. Well for one thing, they didn’t use the only strategy with which the NDP has won in this province and used by Barrett, Harcourt, and Glen Clark, pit bull politics. You have to fight. You have to set out a plan of things you plan to achieve. You need to list the “sins” of the opposition. Failure to do that gives you a loss. Blaming Kwan for James’s exiting as leader isn’t helping. James could/would have lost this election if she had run the same campaign Dix did. Dix may have worked for Glen Clark but he isn’t Glen Clark. Even Harcourt, who is some what mild, did come off as having more fire than Dix.

    Then to have Shane Simpson suggest the NDP may not run against CHristie Clark in a by election, well if that is the head space of the NDP I know why they lost. Clark will be running in one riding. The NDP needs to find one person to run against her and run flat out. Bring out all the dirt Clark has attached to her. If she can be defeated, then at least she is gone and the party will know what types of campaigns to run to win. If the NDP refuses to run a candidate against Clark they have certainly lost their way. Having voted with /for the party for over 40 yrs, donated, worked on elections, I’d suggest Shane Simpson step to the back of the room and let Eby do some of the talking. Horgan and Farnsworth might be better off in on the front line.

  17. G. Barry Stewart says:

    E.A.F.: “If the NDP refuses to run a candidate against Clark they have certainly lost their way.”

    I agree, the team of grassroots NDP backers need to see a strong push back to make things very hot for Christy — even if she runs in West Vancouver. If the party loses its people power, they’ll have nothing left.

    BCTF teachers, for one group, are currently negotiating a contract with the employer representatives. Christy’s 10-year contract idea was tossed by the wayside before the election. Now an emboldened CC may want to resurrect the 10-year idea, claiming that the people of BC want it so.

    There are many teachers who individually support the NDP. They give generously of their time, their voice and their money — and they won’t want to see a bend-over on a by-election.

  18. ron wilton says:

    After all of the chicanery and dirty tricks ‘bammed’ by the temporarily ex harpercons that have contaminated the lino party in BC, the mere suggestion that we, the people of BC, should roll over and play dead so the lino’s can have their seatless’leader’ elected without a fight is really pouring salt in the wound.

    Are the NDP really that subservient?

    After all of the time, energy, effort and monies we gave you to deliver us from evil and you want to turn the other cheek!

    You lost a key battle, you fought with one arm tied behind your back, you would not listen to experienced fighters, you handed the reins to an out of province failure, and now you want to raise the white flag and surrender!

    This war (yes, it is a war) is far from over, you must not let them have their final victory.

    Unless you get up off your collective asses and not let this schitzotic Joan of Arc claim her prize without a damn good fight, you will forever be defeated in BC.

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