We now know that Canada is going to endure another federal election in the coming months along with a bill close to the $288 million spent on the 2008 election. The minority parties in parliament have decided to not support the federal budget tabled by Steven Harper’s government, resulting in a no-confidence vote, which is forcing the election. In reality, however, the clues that an election was coming were apparent for all to see in the American style attack ads directed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in the last couple of months.
The hardcopy style TV ads complete with grainy, slow motion close ups, and this-guy-is-a-perpetrator annoying voice overs, aim to undercut Ignatieff’s reputation by quoting various seemingly unpatriotic statements that he made while living in the UK and US. The main tagline of the ads “he didn’t come back for you” implies that Ignatieff returned to Canada after living abroad for many years to claim power in the Canadian government, rather than because he was concerned about the welfare of the Canadian people.
I don’t like Ignatieff any more than I like Harper as a leader. The problem that I have with the ads and the general tone of the Conservatives’ campaign is that rather than tackling the issues they are reducing their strategy to attacking the leader of the opposing party personally. This tone mimics American political strategy in elections, where leaders of opposing parties are reduced to characters in an ongoing election soap opera, and lost in the shuffle are the issues that really should be driving the decision-making of voters.
If Liberals wanted to run similar attack ads against Harper they would have more than enough fodder. In a speech made to an American right-wing think tank in 1997 Harper called Canada, “a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.” He went on to insult the unemployed people in Canada saying, “In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don’t feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don’t feel bad about it themselves.”
These statements are inflammatory at best and extremely unpatriotic at worst, but do I want to see Liberal attacks ads based on them? No. I would rather hear Liberals talk about the issues; the very issues that they think are important enough to justify another federal election.