Monday, October 06, 2008

Liberals Picking a Water Fight

With the Liberals nearly out of contention to win the 2008 federal election, they find themselves in a very precarious position: unable to form the next government, and possibly at risk of being supplanted as the Official Opposition by the NDP.

Of course it wouldn't do to look as if they're simply throwing in the towel and fighting for second place. So while the Liberal party's newest ad focuses mostly on the NDP, it also takes its obligatory shot at the Tories.

Entitled "The Choice on Canada's Water", the spot promises that a Liberal government would protect Canada's drinking water, clean up Canadian water ways and ban bulk exports of fresh water.

The party notes that Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to ban bulk exports of fresh water, but then actually claims that the NDP is worse yet, noting that as Quebec's Minister of the Environment Mulcair once advocated the export of Canadian water "for profit".

The ad, which features a fairly benign collection of images of running water, concludes by imploring voters to "help protect Canada's water" by voting Liberal.

The spot in question clearly has three goals: to brand the Liberal party as the party that will protect "Canada's water" -- clearly asserting its claim to environmental leadership -- counter-branding the NDP as the party that will "sell out" Canada's water supply, and counter-branding the Conservatives as the party that just plain doesn't care.

The ad asserts oer and over again that the water Thomas Mulcair would export is "Canada's water". Canadians own it, and only Canadians should enjoy the benefits of it.

However, this ad seeks to play to the ignorance of Canadian voter in terms of water and ownership issues. After all, international law actually holds that no country can actually "own" water -- they can merely own the bodies of water in which it collects and the rivers and streams through which it flows.

The ad also neglects to mention that Mulcair advocated the consideration of water exports while serving in a Liberal government -- a fact that may lead voters to question the sincerity of the Liberals' professed opposition to water exports.

This is before one even considers the fact that the Mulcair speech in question -- conveniently provided by the Liberals themselves -- make numerous references to the necessity of proper management, and insist that export of water should only be considered under favourable conditions.

The ad features one other striking difference between it and the previous Liberal spots: a new announcer. This very well could be a bid to try to distance themselves from the frantic and desperate tone the narrator of the past two English-language Liberal ads took.

But it's hard to look at the Liberals' now-solidified shift toward attacking the NDP as anything other than an attempt to stave off third-party status in the next parliament.

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