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Jenni Byrne Breaks Her Silence To Blame Others For The Conservatives' Defeat

Jenni Byrne fights back against the haters.

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Who's responsible for the Conservatives losing the federal election? The answer seems to be whoever is not currently talking.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Conservative campaign manager Jenni Byrne quickly became the main scapegoat after the party got booted out of power.

Party insiders, usually anonymously, slammed her for being inexcusably unprepared. One MP said he got into a screaming match with Byrne that was "the most classless conversation I've ever had in my life." He said she treated some candidates with borderline contempt.

Insiders said things got so bad that Byrne was packing up her desk days before the election was over, and refused to hand over a list of candidate contact information.

Well, now it's her turn to fire back. Byrne penned an op-ed in The Globe and Mail defending herself as an excellent campaign manager.

The Globe and Mail / Via

Byrne argues that the campaign was actually a big success, and that the Conservatives were only undone by factors outside their control, and by her party making one major screwup that she tried to stop.

Here are the highlights.

  • She blames the "desire for change," "wave of change," or "winds of change" six times, but does not make any mention of what caused this desire/wave/wind.
  • "When it comes to the ground game, nobody does it better than Conservatives."
  • "In this election, the party accomplished what it needed to achieve on the ground. More Conservative supporters were identified than ever before, and the party got them out to vote."
  • As an example of success, she cites Conservative candidate Fred Delorey identifying 11,000 supporters and getting them all out to vote. A 100% success rate! She does not mention that Central Nova was one of the strongest Tory strongholds in the country and they'd lost it only once in the previous half-century. In 2011 they won Central Nova by over 12,000 votes. Delorey would end up losing by over 14,000 votes.
  • "Local campaigns were provided more resources than ever before."
  • The media was "thirsty for blood (more so than usual)"


So what really brought down the meticulously-run Conservative campaign? According to Byrne, the campaign was actually too good and too effective at shredding the NDP.

Byrne writes that she had warned her colleagues since 2011 that the NDP were not their main enemy. She even made the "internally unpopular" decision to dismantle the unit in charge of researching and attacking the NDP.

But during the election she "lost the argument to others who felt they were the more serious threat."

By focusing on the issue of whether to allow niqabs to be worn during citizenship ceremonies, the Conservatives "crushed the NDP in Quebec." But this went too far and killed the NDP dead at a national level, allowing the Liberals to steal their votes and win.

Byrne closes her piece on a lighter note, saying she left the Conservatives with such a strong organization that if they don't screw it up they can win next time.

On the one hand, Byrne's piece is a wee bit self-serving.

This Jenni Byrne op-ed is a breathtaking exercise in self-delusion.

If it's just spin, fine. But if Conservatives actually believe it was just vague ~change~ that's half a shade above believing in astrology.

But on the other hand, Byrne has been singled out so much that maybe it's time some blame was spread around.

Enough people blamed Jenni Byrne for the Conservative campaign that it's only fair that she give her own version.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at

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