Last week I asked (and answered) the question as to whether or not recently unveiled Conservative Party attack ads were backfiring on Stephen Harper, as a result of a number of controversies swirling around those ads. I had indicated that we would have a clearer picture when next week’s polls came out. I predicted a very moderate, yet identifiable slippage in the Conservatives polling numbers.
If the latest poll from EKOS is any indication, however, the attack ads had no bearing one way or the other. The EKOS poll, released today, shows a relative flatline in support of the Conservative Party. Indeed, all parties support remains flatlined. If a conclusion based on this one poll can be made, it’s that the attack ads have had neither a positive or negative effect on the fortunes of the CPC. All things being equal, I would normally have said here that I’d adopt a further wait and see attitude.
However, in politics, all things rarely remain equal for very long. It looks like the Conservative Party has just today acknowledged that it’s shot itself in the foot with the release of two new attack ads yesterday. In an effort to minimize self-inflected damage, the Globe & Mail is reporting this evening that the CPC has pulled the two ads after they enraged Canadians in twittersphere.
These two ads used a clip from Liberal Leader Michael’s Ignatieff speech to party faithful earlier in the week, in which he asked (and answered) his own questions regarding whether the Liberal Party was ready to fight for Canadian families. His answer, a resounding “Yes! Yes! Yes!” proved to be far more memorable than the questions themselves, apparently. The Conservative Party’s ads used the Yes! Yes! Yes! completely out of context, so that Ignatieff appeared to be answering different questions related to his desire to force an unwanted election (in these uncertain economic times, no less!).
The use of the Ignatieff clip out of context really burned a lot of Canadians, and outrage spilled across blogsites and the comment sections of mainstream media. I have to express my own surprise here, as I hadn’t anticipated the level of outrage to the ads. I just sorta kinda thought that Canadians were growing more used to these American-style ads which seek to vilify opponents by using their own words taken out of context against them. Maybe it’s just me, having watched too many ads on American TV during last year’s U.S. mid-terms.
Nonetheless, these ads from Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party were disgusting attempts to distort the truth and confuse Canadians. I guess he thinks so very highly of Canadians that he believes that we’ll fall for this kind of complete distortion of reality (because apparently we’re pretty adept at falling for other distortions of reality as proffered by the CPC). I suppose it’s a good thing that his Party’s braintrust massaged out their collective braincramp and pulled the ads. Certainly these latest ads are going to go down in Canadian political advertising history, ending up right beside Kim Campbell’s unflattering portrayal of Jean Chretien’s face.
So, now I’m really expecting to see a slight, but discernible, slip in Conservative polling numbers in next week’s polls. These attack ads are proving to be a disaster for Harper and his Conservative Party (and a completely self-inflicted one). If the 15% of Canadians allegedly paying attention to federal politics have anything to say about things, I can’t see how the Cons can spin these ads into a success.
Or perhaps a slight bump to the Liberals and NDP might be more indicative of the really decent week that both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton have had. Ignatieff in particular, since he started taking a populist stance on killing unnecessary tax cuts for corporations, and questioning the need for expensive jet fighters, has started to come into his own this week, from a political perspective. While his one-issue wonder approach to growing Liberal support really galls me for its lack of comprehensiveness, I’m not blinded to the fact that attacking wasteful corporate tax cuts clearly resonates with Canadians.
Layton’s cat and mouse game with the election issue has also left him looking pretty good. He wants to be perceived as the reasonable guy in the midst of the election madness. Maybe he even believes that Harper will bend on the one or two concessions Layton wants to see in the budget – removing HST from home heating being the biggest. At least he’s not demanding $5 billion dollars all for one province as Gilles Duceppe is doing.
All of this, of course, is bad news for the Green Party of Canada. While our support remains flat, it’s clear that we’ve not been able to capitalize at all, even in the midst of all of this rhetorical nonsense. Now, I know Green Party members and supporters will point to the obvious – the Green Party of Canada isn’t built in such a way as to participate in this kind of partisan rhetoric. Indeed, it’s because of the sort of nonsense going on these past weeks that most of us joined the Green Party in the first place, because we’re just all too frustrated with the way that gotcha politics seems to have replaced policy discussion and debate in this country.
Nonetheless, as a Green pragmatist, I can’t help but point out the almost complete absence of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May from the mainstream media this week. That’s not to say she isn’t working her guts out for the Party (because I know that she is), but it is to say suggest that a lack of press at this time isn’t helping the Green Party. Canadians might want to know where Greens stand on eliminating corporate tax cuts, or cancelling the unsourced fighter jet deal. Instead, we get treated with May’s take on the revamped Mark Twain classic “Huckleberry Finn”.
So, let’s wait and see what the polls have to say. Perhaps the Conservative attack ad fiasco will prove to be a tempest in a teapot, as many Canadians just aren’t paying attention right now. Or maybe Conservative support really is as solid as it appears, and there isn’t anywhere to go for the CPC but up. By all rights, though, these attack ads really should be damaging to Stephen Harper and Conservatives. If there isn’t any damage recorded, however, one wonders exactly what the Conservatives might have to do to seriously rock their own boat.
How big of a disaster might be necessary for the 35+% of Canadians who support the Conservatives to question whether they’re backing the right horse? I continue to be perplexed by these polling numbers, given the lack of interest and regard (not to mention the outright hostility) the Conservative Party of Canada has shown time and again to middle-class Canadians. The middle-class continues to vote against its own interests when they cast ballots for Conservative candidates. I guess maybe as with the Conservative Party itself, Canada’s middle-class might prove to be its own worst enemy in the long run.