Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conservatives Poor Messengers

Normally, in a policy debate, the various parties can draw on expert opinion, or something else outside of the political arena to support their viewpoint. When this happens, no matter your position, it finds validity and then it becomes an argument of perception, saleability. I think it extremely important to consider one key point, as we move forward on the climate change debate. The Conservatives have no external support, which means their attacks and positions shouldn't be cause for overblown concern. As a matter of fact, I can't think of another issue where the Conservatives are so isolated, nobody, whether it be media, experts or economists take them seriously.

Polls show anywhere from 65-75% of Canadians don't approve of the government's environmental policies, have little confidence in their commitment. That means, the messenger is entirely marginalized, people already have a negative perception, which makes any "attack" less credible. Taken a step further, the "attacks" also draw attention not just to the target, but also to the flaws of the aggressor. Have you read a news item about the latest ads, which also doesn't reference the Conservatives weak approach? You can't just attack and yell forever, eventually it becomes a more serious debate, and within that, the Conservatives fail. The reason, nobody, in the know, will come to their aid.

Case in point, respected economist (the same guy Baird hired to cost out Kyoto for his Senate appearance) comes out today and trashes the hollow attacks:
"Tory attack on carbon tax is dishonest: economist"

A prominent resource economist has pronounced himself disgusted with "dishonest" Conservative attack ads on a Liberal carbon tax proposal that's yet to be unveiled.

"The Conservatives -- and I say this with great sadness because I don't care which political party is in power -- but if we're going to do anything about climate change, we're going to have to be honest with people," Marc Jaccard of Simon Fraser University told CTV.ca on Tuesday.

"This is just totally dishonest."

On the weekend, the Tories previewed ads aimed at the proposed carbon tax, painting it as Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's "tax on everything."

The ads are to start running Tuesday.

Jaccard, a co-author of the recent book Hot Air, said the Conservatives' own policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions won't work because it doesn't put a price on carbon for consumers.

"Their policy is to regulate industry and then have these offset loopholes where industry can subsidize consumers. But those are the types of policies that have never worked in the past," he said.

"I'm not a fan of Stephane Dion, but when you get a politician out there that's trying to start an honest dialogue and say to people, 'you know what? We won't get our emissions down if there isn't a price on them and that's just the truth'," Jaccard said.

"And to see politicians saying, 'Maybe I can stay in power' or gain more power, or maybe a majority government, by distorting this" disgusted him, he said.

And that's the intangible in this entire debate. The Conservatives can howl, they can run ads, but when push comes to shove, they are the one's armed with the weak plan, a plan which has no backing. The NDP have a plan, the Greens have a plan, the Liberals will have a plan, people will debate the merits of each, while the Conservatives evaporate once we get passed soundbites and the superficial. Really, these attacks are desperation, it's all they have, because they bring nothing to the table.

Canadians already have a low opinion of the Conservatives, going entirely negative actually raises the prospect of Dion looking like the only adult in the room. I'm not suggesting problems, this plan had better show some realization of the present circumstance or it's dead weight, but nobody should fear the blue machine on this score. People wonder if Dion is the right messenger to sell the plan, but you could just as easily wonder if the Conservatives are the competent messenger to discredit the plan. Seems to me, the Conservatives are hardly the credible source, they have no apolitical support and their negativity ultimately draws attention their own failure. The Liberals will sink or swim, on the merits of their own plan, how capable they are at selling. Call me naive, but I'm just not afraid of the Conservative attack machine on this score.


Anonymous said...

Attack ads will only have an effect if there's a multiplier in the media. With the Sparrow/Buckler gong show in charge, liberals have nothing to fear.

Steve V said...

"Attack ads will only have an effect if there's a multiplier in the media."

Well, that's part of what I mean. The media isn't particularly kind to the Cons on the environment file, heck even somebody like Goldstein says it's their "achilles heel", so the ads won't translate as credible through the media filter. It's just the Cons, alone, and in the end, they can't stand up to the scrutiny.

Dion isn't a leader worked, because the media bought into the frame, in fact some of them where sympathetic to that characterization. People are foolish to extrapolate that success onto every attack, on this issue, they simply lack the credibility to carry the message.

Trevor said...

Just like the "not a leader" thing didn't work?

Attack ads do work, they work for Conservatives and they work for Liberals. All parties embellish the truth about their opponents. If the Libs weren't almost bankrupt they would be fighting back with their own advertising.

Koby said...

>>> "Attack ads do work"

Some attack ads work. Recall the Liberals soliders in are cities ad and Kim Campbell's chretien ad.

RuralSandi said...

The Tories have one huge friend in the media - Mike Duffy - his whole show yesterday was on the ads, the shirt, etc. etc.

Duffy said yellow wasn't his colour (when holding up a shirt in front of him) - duh, Duffy - your colour is blue - that's obvious.

I think Duffy's losing it and/or sucking up to the Tories for some reason.

Steve V said...

"Just like the "not a leader" thing didn't work?"

Trevor, I know you guys aren't too bright, but could you at least read the comment above, before posting. "Not a leader" worked because the media bought into it, not to mention it was the first attack. These ads are just re-opening the environment debate, accompanied by the criticism of the Conservatives plan, or lack thereof, as the case may be. I would also add, this is the SIXTH set of ads, it gets old and it reinforces the mean-spirited impression of the Cons.

RuralSandi said...

To see to what extreme lengths the Tories will go to misrepresent issues check out blogger - Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy.

VERY interesting - is it illegal?

Brent L. said...

The Liberals have a serious case of "Ad envy".

Steve V said...


They did the same sort of thing in my riding a couple months ago. There were letters to the editor.


Actually, it's sort of funny watching you guys waste money on your low-rent, cheese ads. How'd that "Kyoto's Dog Blog" work out for? The best part, and most of you don't seem to get it, this sort of schoolyard nonsense isn't endearing you to anyone. I mean, wow, all these ads have really expanded your support haven't they?

I should note, I saw that one BT was complaining about the low brow, low quality approach in the ads. Hopefully, nobody listens.