Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tory Counter-Branding Effort Takes a Turn for the Ridiculous

Anti-family label is just plain silly

Yesterday, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced the Liberals and NDP for allegedly being "anti-family", the Conservatives released yet another spot targeting Stephane Dion.

The ad addresses a previous statement by Stephane Dion in which he announced he would cut the Conservative's $1200 per annum childcare tax credit.

The ad insists that the choice to voters is clear "you keep the $1200, or [Dion] gets it."

Dion has denounced the claim as a "lie". Yet Dion did, in fact, say that he would cancel the Tory plan. More specifically, Dion would replace the Universal Child Care Benefit with Ken Dryden's plan for a national daycare program.

"The Dryden plan was much better. We need child care facilities to provide Canadian parents with real choice. It's a matter of social justice, but also of sound economics: child care facilities are a good way to encourage flexibility and mobility of our workforce, at a time when, often, two parents are working outside the home."

Which is obviously precisely what the ad is referring to when it warns that "[Dion] thinks he can spend [the $1200] better than you can."

Thus, there's nothing dishonest about the ad.

However, the ad's place in an effort to counter-brand Stephane Dion as "anti-family" is just plain silly. After all, Dion is a family man himself. It's unlikely that Dion himself would do anything to hurt his own family. Anything that would hurt Canadian families would inevitably hurt his own, in one way or another.

Just as Jack Layton is a family man as well, and has campaigned on numerous pro-family policies.

However, as silly as the Conservative effort to counter-brand Dion as Layton as "anti-family" (and there is a great peril in dragging politics down into the realm of vapid "anti-" labels), Dion's attempt to counter-brand the Conservatives as "liars" is doubly silly.

For one thing, the claims in the Conservative ad pan out to be true. Secondly, the base accusation of lying portrays Dion as a man incapable of debating the real issues -- instead choosing to dodge behind accusations of lies.

Stephen Harper himself insisted that the 2008 federal election would be a nasty one. With moves such as the inherently silly "anti-family" label, he's done more than his fair share to make it a nasty one.

Equally unfortunately, Stephane Dion has proven himself more than willing to oblige him.

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