As the final hours tick off of the 2008 federal election campaign, the battle to carry the airwaves finally begins to draw to a close.
The final three Conservative party spots break evenly down into the three categories of political ads -- an enthusiasm-themed ad, a negative-themed ad, and an attack ad.
The negative ad portrays what appears to be a worried working mother musing over her electoral choices while watching Stephane Dion give a speech on television. She's clearly concerned about the economic situation in the United States and hopes it doesn't find its way north of the border.
Her young daughter colours at the kitchen table while the woman thinks about the choices posed by Stephane Dion (at least according to the ad). Dion "promises money like it grows on trees" and "keeps pushing this carbon tax".
She can't afford more debt or taxes, she muses. She winds up concluding that Dion "just isn't worth the risk".
The second spot, entitled "A Time For Certainty", features Stephen Harper giving a relaxed but clearly urgent dissertation to the camera.
He's abandoned his famed sweater vest for his customary suit, but his top button is undone, and he isn't wearing a tie -- clearly, he doesn't want to seem entirely less than relaxed.
"In these times of global uncertainty, there are some things we need to be certain about," he says. "We need to be certain that we don't spend more than we have. We keep our budget balanced, live within our means. We need to be certain to keep inflation under control so that we keep rising prices in check. But most of all we need to be certain to keep our taxes so you and your family have more to work with."
"This isn't the time for untested theories or risky themes," he adds. "It's a time for certainty."
The spot opens with the ads titled scrawled out in what imagines may be Harper's handwriting. It concludes with his his signature written against an image of a fluttering Canadian flag. The message is very simple: Harper's message in this ad is his own, so much so that he signs off on it himself.
The third spot is an attack ad.
One after another, numerous newspaper headlines appear on the screen. Each one is torn away to reveal either another newspaper headline or Dion himself underneath. Each headline reflects the economic struggles unfolding in the United States -- troubles that are very much on the minds of Canadians as the American markets drag down the TSX.
Dion's carbon tax plan could even culminate in a trade war, according to the ad.
The ad concludes with a video image of Dion promoting his carbon tax being crumpled up before the narrator insists that Dion is "not worth the risk".
The ad also reminds Canadians that Dion has no plan for the economy (in fact, his plan is to come up with a plan after assuming office).
All three ads reflect what has become an official -- if unintended -- theme for the Conservative campaign: economic uncertainty. They're clearly hoping that Canadians will entrust the currently-fragile global economy to the Conservative party platform. Not the platform that was released so late in this campaign, but rather the platform the party has been running on all along: the one they built through two and a half years of governance.
The housewife ad and the attack ad are both counter-branding ads: trying to brand Stephane Dion as risky and worrisome for Canadians.
The "Time For Certainty" spot is the first re-branding spot of the Conservative campaign. It follows a furious pace of economy-related Liberal ads (the "Harpernomics" ads) and attempts to brand Harper as the best choice for the economy: the one that shares the priorities of Canadians and understands what they really need. It also seeks to brand him as somewhat workmanlike: a leader who will get down to work and do the job at hand, but also knows when the work week is over. More like the idyllic life that most middle- and working-class Canadians covet than the workaholic Harper is sometimes believed to be.
At the end of this campaign, Tory fortunes will have hinged on how successful the Conservatives have been in this branding tactic: reminding Canadians how worried they are about the economy, counter-branding Stephane Dion as a disaster waiting to happen, then re-branding themselves as the party best situated to deal with the crisis.