war room

The war room is where a political party crafts its responses to other parties' statements and claims during an election campaign - see compare policy. It is also the physical base from which it can press claims about its own positions - especially when the press gets it wrong, as they often do - see press protocol.

The Green Party of Ontario avoids the term war and has GPO bioregional operations centres. The more conventional terminology is used in this article.

what it does

During elections, it is the party's nerve centre, where the press release protocol happens, or at least, it is where problems with that protocol are resolved.

After elections it is the scene of some post-election wrap-up activities but will normally be dismantled or used for other purposes.

A press centre may be distributed using facilities such as openpolitics.ca itself. This has not at yet been done in any political party but may occur during the Ontario general election, 2007 if the Ontario electoral reform referendum, 2006 passes, as the GPO will be in a position to contend for seats.

GPC experience

In the Canadian federal election, 2004, the Green Party of Canada ran what amounted to a "distributed war room" or press centre consisting of the gpc-planks email list and various Green Party of Canada Living Platform pages:

This worked imperfectly. For instance there was too much attention given to various attacks from NDP supporters, and not enough given to the Auditor General's role on implementing ecological and social indicators that had been the focus of most legislator activity from 1997 through 2003 and which were highly strategic due to 2004's focus on the Liberal Party sponsorship scandal. See Platform 2004 Performance Review for more details on these issues.

Avoiding this kind of extremely harmful strategic error - and it IS an ERROR not an excusable tradeoff - or at best correcting it before the election - was considered to be the job of a real war room and a GPC Message Team that has already mapped these priorities in advance, and a GPC Outreach Team that knows who to talk to.

The movement from this physical location to a more distributed press centre and more predictable GPC protocols began when the ERCT was removed, but has been slow due to a Gang of Crookes impeding progress and requiring centralization of funds in their own hands.

tough job

For any party, the intersecting and sometimes contradictory needs of their Media Team, Message Team and Outreach Team, all intersecting in the war room, can be daunting.

The position protocol and global protocol (external world events in the news), press protocol and election protocol also affect operations in the war room.


According to personality psychologists, notably John Kiersey, only an ESTP temperament is actually suited to run such a room. If the Campaign Manager is not of this temperament, probably they must appoint someone to do that job who is.

Sometimes a war room must even deal with candidate protocol concerns, as Jack Layton had to do when the Liberals blackberried an NDP visit to Cape Breton to refocus Layton's energies on Quebec - where he had no chance to break through, but had to deal with his position on the Clarity Act which clashed with that of Bill Blaikie. A good war room would deal with this without actually involving the Leader and his nearest rival.


There are various documentary treatments of how political war rooms operate. Many of them present very fictional and idealized summaries. In fact most of the work of a war room is what goes on ordinarily in the research centre, editing centre and copywriting centre, but in somewhat high-stress circumstances. It should resemble a newspaper office and those who are used to working on daily news should feel quite comfortable in a war room.


The experience of 2004 suggests that for a federal political party, a physical location is required either in Ottawa - where the Government of Canada is - or Toronto - where Canadian major media and most of the expertise required to do the work is - in the Canadian federal election, 2006.

To site this is a difficult responsibility that must be undertaken well in advance of a writ drop - among the first steps in the election protocol. See work-space-tribe for more discussion of the physical characteristics of this space and making it work, especially in support of highly mobile work during elections.