Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Liberals Thrust, Feint to Close Out Campaign

Like the Conservatives, the Liberal party released three ads in the waning days of the 2008 federal election campaign.

Unlike the Tory ads, however, these spots don't fit so nicely into the three types of campaign ad. Instead, the Liberals have offered two clear attack ads and an attack ad dressed up to seem like an enthusiasm-themed ad.

The ad portrays ordinary Canadians explaining why they're going to vote Liberal.

"They've helped our country do great things," says one man.

"Like balancing the books," says another.

"Bringing in universal health care," adds an older lady.

"And telling Bush no way on Iraq," concludes another.

However, then the ad takes an abrupt turn away from trying to remind Canadians why they should be enthusiastic about the Liberal party and instead why they should be afraid of the Conservatives.

"The Liberals know Canada's at its best when we work together," says one man.

"Instead of being told to fend for ourselves," adds an older man, finishing the preceding man's thought.

"We don't know what's coming with our economy, but we can't just tell people to go it alone," the man says.

"Like Harper will," adds another older woman.

The ad concludes with a male narrator announcing that the Liberals are "always there for you."

The second spot, a much more blatant fear-based attack ad, is another "Harpernomics" ad.

The ad jumps from accusing Harper of being "in denial" about the economy to accusing him of planning more "Bush-style policies", "shredding our safety net".

The irony that it was Paul Martin who shredded Canada's social safety net during the early '90s recession as a deficit-fighting measure shouldn't be lost on many Canadians. Regardless, it obviously isn't mentioned in the ad.

The ad concludes by shifting abruptly to an attempt at an enthusiasm-based pitch, insisting that it will "strengthen the safety net in tough times" (despite historically having done the opposite).

The final ad features the intriguing last-minute return of the woman who narrated the Liberal attack ads of the 2004 and 2005/06 campaigns. Recently, she had been narrating ads for the NDP.

Entitled "Denial", the ad again accuses Harper of being "in denial" about the economy. The ad asserts that Harper denies there's a problem, accuses him of not caring, and insists he can't be trusted.

"Harper's turning his back on you," the ad insists.
Ironically, the ad cites a Toronto Star headline insisting that "Harper's Tactics Mislead Canadians". Meanwhile, the Liberal campaign has resorted to flinging around predictions of a social democratic apocalypse that hasn't happened in the two and a half years in which Harper governed, and came much closer to actually happening under the Liberals than at any time under a Conservative government.

The ad also claims the Liberals have "an immediate economic action plan".

The truth is actually quite different. Dion has pledged to hold meetings to come up with a plan after taking office. What little of such a plan he's hinted at have turned out to be rather dubious.

But if there's anything the Liberal party historically hasn't done, it's allowed facts to stand in the way of fear-based campaigning.

This batch of Liberal ads clearly want to counter-brand Stephen Harper as terrifying -- a threat to Canada's social programs and unable to handle the democracy.

The fear-based theme is nothing new. They did it in 2004, tried it again in 2005/06, and unless the Conservatives somehow win a majority in this election (as it stands now, this is unlikely), they'll almost certainly do it again in the next election.

Unfortunately, these ads come at a time when the Liberals should be trying to re-brand as an economically reliable party. In order to do this, however, they would need to try and find a way to step around Conservative assertions that Dion's plan is risky.

Now that final balloting in the 2008 federal election campaign is mere hours away, it's too late for them to even try. Should their defeat be worse than what polls are currently projecting, they'll have no one but themselves to blame in this regard.

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