Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How Not To Get Elected

It wasn't an earthquake that we felt in the Montreal area on Monday.

The earth shook from the force of people like my late father spinning in their graves, for it must have been about that time that the infamous "military" ad was approved.

My father served in World War II as did many parents of my generation. He was proud of that service and proud of the Canadian army, so much so that he and my mother would argue over one of his favourite phrases, "My country, right or wrong."

The merits of that sentiment notwithstanding, I am almost at a loss for words over that Liberal ad. Almost, but not quite.

On the surface it's a nasty attack ad, intended to frighten Canadians away from voting for the Conservative Party of Canada. The idea is that the party has right-wing gun-friendly pro-war leanings which clash with the sensibilities of the majority of Canadians.

Whether this is correct or not, doesn't even matter anymore because the argument has gone far beyond the bounds of intelligent debate into the territory of mind games and control-by-fear strategy – the same kind successfully used by: the Republican Party of the United States. The Liberals, by virtue of their tactics, have become what they themselves portray as Canada's worst nightmare. They try to suggest that a Conservative government will bring Canada into lock-step with the United States, and whether or not this is a bad thing (in context, the Liberals think so) it is what THEY have become, if not in actual policy then in their conduct during this campaign. They have shown that they believe the end justifies the means, which is certainly how the current U.S. regime seems to govern itself.

Clearly, marketing professionals helped craft the ad, which is stark in its simplicity and follows the pattern of eleven other new ads. The visual is just a grey blur, gradually focusing into a close-up of Stephen Harper's face which is supposed to look menacing but doesn't quite make it. It's the background music that is jarring, a war-like drumbeat gradually increasing in complexity, while the female voice-over repeats a few simple phrases such as "guns". "In our cities." "In Canada." "We did not make this up."

Would it be helpful to remind them that the last time there really were military weapons in city streets in Canada, it was a Liberal Prime Minister who sent them there?

It wasn't enough that the Liberal government neglected the armed forces to the point where it put their lives in jeopardy with second-hand leaky submarines and woefully out-of-date helicopters which cost so much in maintenance that their use is hardly feasible. Somehow, the Canadian military remains a globally respected peace-keeping force, one which the Liberals WANT US TO BE AFRAID OF SEEING IN OUR OWN CITIES.

This, only weeks after an RCMP peacekeeper was murdered in Haiti.

Then again I can understand why the Liberals are a little leery of the RCMP these days, but most Canadian citizens really have nothing to fear on that level.

What's almost worse than the ad itself is the attempt at damage control. When the public's reaction became clear, the ad was removed from the Liberal Party website and the party line on TV was that it had not been released and was just one of those ideas that did not see the light of day.

Uh, no. It WAS released on the website. It was NOT just another idea thrown up and thrown out of a brainstorming session. It was produced in the same manner as the others in its group and released along with them. It bears the fine print authorization seal-of-approval as required by law.

Suggestions that it did not appear in a paid-for context, therefore did not *really* appear at all, show that either there IS no defense for this strategy or that the Liberals are vastly out of touch with the workings of today's media. Or both.

This morning, I heard reports that the ad has appeared on French television, which, if true, makes the story of what has become of the Liberal Party even more pathetic for it insults the intelligence and ethics of French-speaking Canadians and the memory of troops such as the Vandoos, not to mention belying all the disclaimers about the ad that I heard last night.

I came into this campaign as a Liberal supporter. I liked Paul Martin and was pleased when he took over from Jean Chretien. I believed that the Liberal party was the best hope to keep Canada together and that I would vote for my Liberal candidate on election day.

None of the above is true anymore. While the social aspects of the Conservative platform do not fully correspond with my views, they are my preferred party to lead the country at this moment. Character is sometimes the most important quality in a leader, and while Stephen Harper's is less well known than Paul Martin's, I think Canada would be better off with Harper as its next Prime Minister.

Cross posted to the CTV Election Weblog

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