Saturday, January 27, 2007

Target Dion

The Conservatives are preparing a series of attack ads on Dion:
The Conservative party intends to run TV attack ads against new Liberal leader Stephane Dion, CTV News has learned.

Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenny will hold a briefing tomorrow in Ottawa to unveil the ads that mock Dion's leadership abilities and his environmental record, sources say.

Party insiders say the Conservatives will buy TV spots during the Super Bowl and other prime time slots for maximum impact.

The ads -- which party officials showed to the Conservative caucus on Friday -- cast doubt on Dion's environmental credentials and leadership abilities, according to sources that have seen them.

One Conservative insider told CTV News the party "wants to define Dion before the Liberals get the chance to define him with a free ride from the media."

One of the ads is a clip from the Liberal leadership campaign.

"You don't know how hard it is to set priorities," Dion states in one ad as a perplexed Ignatieff looks on, according to a Tory source.

Another ad mocks Dion's failure as environment minister to meet the Kyoto climate change targets.

"We didn't get it done." Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says to Dion in an exchange taken from the Liberal leadership race.

I actually think this is a risky strategy for the Conservatives. I remember the exchange with Ignatieff, and while it may score some obvious points, I'm not so sure the Conservatives want to put even more focus on the environment. The whole strategy the past few weeks has been to take the environment off the table, this will only emphasis the issue. While Dion has problems with the Liberal environmental record, he can talk circles around the pedestrian Conservative environmental rhetoric. I'm not sure Canadians will embrace negative campaigning on this issue, especially when you are obviously trying to detract from your own shortcomings.


Anonymous said...

And advertising outside an election -- how rare is that up here? I don't remember it happening recently, and there is a huge risk i'd think but of course possible big points especially if the Tory echo chamber media pots pick up and run with it.
Maybe it'll look like desperation. Certainly there's no lack of ammo on Harpor that could come to the light -- just from events in the last year. As much as I'd love for us to reuse the old quotes and writings he so generously gave to describe him as a anal-retentive SOB, we'll have to keep it current.

Steve V said...


"And advertising outside an election -- how rare is that up here?"

I didn't cite this part of the link, but apparently the Tories have so much money they need to spend some before the election.

It just might look desperate, to have a government attacking a leader of the opposition while in power. It sets a strange tone which might cause some backlash.

Good point about the Tory media echo chamber, which is ironic, given the justification that Dion is getting a free ride.

Anonymous said...

What did the Tories say in opposition about Arar?

What was it? oh yeah.....

Anonymous said...

Are other Blogging Tories as baffled as this one?

Anonymous said...


Remember last campaign when confronted with the "soldiers in the street" ad. Harper said that the LPC didn't owe him an apology, that he "could take a punch".

If this ad campiagn is true, I am thinking he is expecting the same from Dion on this topic.

I also agree that infomed CPC supporters watch the many little bits of ugliness that have swirled around the LPC over the last 2 months and wondering why the MSM isn't reporting on any of it.

It will be interesting to watch.


Scotian said...

This may also help reinforce the perception that the Harper CPC imports GOP/American style political tools and beliefs. This is as has already been noted something we do not normally see up here outside of election campaigns unlike with our American brethren where campaigning is literally a nonstop event.

I also think it may backfire in terms of it being seen as pot calling the kettle black. Recall the outrage for the Liberal election commercials last time out where they did. not. make things. up. Now the CPC is about to try something similar with Dion who so far has not been terribly effectively attacked by the CPC since assuming the leadership (I say ineffectively because his numbers have not tanked nor that of the Libs since assuming the leadership despite all the Citoyen/Celine Dion crap and other similar personal attacks used in the past couple of months).

This is also I think going to have a lot of people wondering whether the CPC is trying to engineer an election in the near future which if the polls are to be believed is something the average Canadian does not want at the moment. So if the government falls in the next few months it may be harder for the CPC to claim it was not their desires based on such a preelection negative ad campaign.

There is also the fact that many Canadians have noticed that Canada's "new" government never seems to miss a chance to badmouth and attack the Liberals, even when it is not really appropriate as was the case in the Arar apology the other day. This will help reinforce the perception of the CPC as a party that focuses on the negative and badmouths everyone opposed to it, not something they need to have reinforced given the already strong public/voter questions and suspicions about this Harper/CPC party and government's true agenda/direction especially if handed a majority. Not to mention that it looks like the government is picking on its weaker opponents by using the tools of power to attack them, which implies a certain amount of fear/weakness within the CPC especially where Dion and the Liberals are concerned and the fact they are going to such lengths to try and damage Dion may make some Canadians be willing to wonder whether Dion can be all that bad if the CPC feels the need to go to such unusual lengths to try and damage him so before any election campaign.

I do not know for sure of course, but I think that overall the CPC may end up doing themselves more harm than good and indeed could well perversely help Dion and the Liberals with this approach. We shall see. I know that there are those that think this is smart politics, I am not so sure. As I keep trying to remind people what works well in American politics is not automatically going to have similar results in ours. There are subtle yet powerful/profound differences between our political cultures and I think this attack approach so far outside of an election campaign or even an imminent one at that may well be the latest example of this in action. While I agree with the reasoning that it is to the advantage of the CPC to negatively define Dion I think this approach may well instead further negatively define Harper and the CPC as a bunch of bullying power-hungry driven by expediency thugs in the same vein as the Bush43 GOP which Harper has been on record so many times being such an admirer of.

Susan said...

I guess since Mr. H. and the gang have found out how hard it is to govern and how inadequate they are at it, they want to go back to what they like best - mud slinging. But then they're not that good at that either.

IslandLiberal said...

Using attack ads outside of an election seems like a bad idea, in that it undermines the government's line that they don't want an election this spring; political advertising is associated pretty much exclusively with election campaigns, so if you're running attack ads, it's going to be hard to sell people on the idea that you're not getting ready to campaign.

Steve V said...

Judging by the few news pieces I caught today, the one word that comes to mind is "backfire". Goodale was on the CBC to discuss the "attack ads", which provided a wonderful 5 minute opportunity to bash the Conservatives. At best this will be a draw, at worst it will leave a bad taste.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

It is a roll of the dice, but I think it is more likely to backfire than work. Canadians generally don't like attack ads but can tolerate 5 weeks of them. When done outside the election period, it just smacks of desperation. Lets remember in 2004 and 2006, our attack ads, as vicious as they were, came out only 2 weeks before the election.

My only rationale is maybe they want to test the effect of them and if they fail, they will run a positive campaign and if they work they will use them in the campaign. Since any damage now will be far less than during a general election.

Steve V said...


Another danger, these lines of attack are probably the most potent against Dion. Why waste them now, allow Dion to formulate a forceful counter and neutralize the effectiveness during the campaign. These kind of attacks can work in the short-term, but they get old quick. This move looks like a boner all around. Another item that falls in the face of the "Stephen Harper, master strategist" meme.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a link to the ads? Would love to see them. (Yeah, and I think the strategy reeks of desperation and Canadians will react the same way they did to Kim Campbell's attack ads on Chretien. Remember how well those went over?

Steve V said...

You can watch them here, surprisingly amateurish.

Anonymous said...

Miles' idea that these ads might be a trial balloon makes sense, though I wonder if it might not be just a trial balloon for a specific line of spin, but also for the whole idea of campaign-like ads without there being a campaign to hang them on. In other words, an attempt to change the way the government communicates with the public between elections into something more adversarial and combative.

Another possibility is that the CPoC might be hoping to goad the Liberals into spending money they don't have (the party's coffers are low, aren't they?)on counterattack ads of their own, leaving them in an even worse position should an election come soon.

On the other hand, both those possibilities argue a certain degree of subtlety, and I'm not sure that's justifiable based on Harper's record to date.