By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
The Liberal Party I lead will…
…NOT be afraid of discussing policy in public. The current hoopla over whether I would, or would not, raise the GST highlights exactly what ails politics in this country: fear of speaking out.
140 character tweets, sound bites taken out of context, and fear of attack ads all, shamefully, now seem to rule our public discourse. Here is what I really think about the GST.
- Yes, I have said that I would consider raising the GST but only if needed. I supported the GST when it was brought in, and was among the most vocal in calling Harper’s politically-motivated reductions from 7% to 5% bad economics. It would be hypocritical of me now to say otherwise.
- I do not advocate any tax increases right now – not GST, not corporate taxes, not personal income taxes – not while we’re still struggling with the economy and the sluggish exit from the financial crisis. Indeed, this is exactly what Harper has done with his increases in EI premiums, a tax on jobs which I object to.
- I do not advocate a rise in the GST, even when the economy is stronger, to the exclusion of other things. For example, I would prefer a price on carbon, which would do double duty by also improving our environment.
- I would consider raising the GST if, using just one example, increased costs of aging demographics, health care and the all-important education for our next generations are not sufficiently off-set by spending cuts elsewhere.
Needless to say, that level of discussion never gets into tweets or sound bites or headlines. Only the ‘sexy’ attack parts do. And that is wrong – because Canada must engage in this debate.
AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT
Are we so afraid of Harper and his attack ads that we can’t even debate significant economic issues in public? Have we no confidence left whatsoever? No wonder Canadians have lost respect for Liberals – and for politicians generally. I refuse to let us conduct ourselves out of fear. We MUST be able to have these discussions.
We keep talking about needing more engagement – how do we do that, when we ourselves refuse to engage in any real debate?
TAXATION AND SPENDING:
We have taxation and we have spending. Determining the right mix is a critical part of Canada’s economic and social prosperity. Canadians should expect politicians to have the courage to engage in this kind of debate and discussion – and not to be afraid of doing so.
- No sensible Canadian objects to at least some level of taxation- it’s how we pay for roads, sewers, health care, old age security, passport services, immigration issues—all manner of government services that significantly improve our society. We understand that some taxation is needed in today’s world.
- What form it takes, and how much, paid by whom, and how it should be used, should always be part of our public policy debate. We can always do better.
- Despite initial concerns, Liberals quickly recognized that a value-added tax was a sensible form of taxation. We have supported it ever since.
- Liberals were therefore, and appropriately, among the most vocal in condemning Harper for his ‘cheap politics’ of reducing the GST from 7 to 6 and then to 5%. Because cheap politics is exactly what it was. It certainly was bad economics.
- Many believe that Canada now has a structural deficit, thanks in large measure to those GST cuts. If Harper had correspondingly cut spending, then that’s a different story – but he didn’t. His first two years in government, while cutting the GST, he spent the two largest-spending budgets in Canadian history. This BEFORE the financial crisis hit.
This is close to the position Michael Ignatieff seemed to try to articulate before abandoning it entirely: possibly raising the GST if necessary at some point in the future.
The question for the Liberal party remains not so much the likelihood of Conservative attacks, but whether the party is capable of responding: with a leader who can handle the attacks and a party that is agile enough and financially prepared to respond with its own ads.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 23, 2012 at 5:41 PM - 0 Comments
An email from Team Justin.
Justin has only been in this race for 50 days, and the Conservative Party’s attack machine is already operational.
This isn’t a surprise. That’s been the other side’s strategy from the beginning: negative, negative, negative.
Can you chip in $10 or more right now to help us fight back?
This week we saw them cynically spin out-of-context comments. Check out this story in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Before long, they will jam the airways with negative ads trashing Justin.
They’ve done it before. They’re trying to do it again. I’ll be blunt: we need your help.
Justin is running a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter to middle-class Canadians. While the Conservative Party re-hashes old attacks from the past, we are focused on expanding economic security and guaranteeing opportunity for all.
Let’s stand with Justin – will you chip in to help?
Justin Campaign Team
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:26 AM - 0 Comments
The Saskatchewan Party has released an ad that uses Thomas Mulcair to attack the candidates for leader of the provincial NDP.
The SaskParty has injected itself into the NDP leadership contest, releasing an ad attempting to link the four contenders to comments made earlier this year by federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair … “The people of Saskatchewan, I think, need to know where the leadership candidates for the NDP are on Mr. Mulcair’s statement on dutch disease here in our province,” said SaskParty cabinet minister Bill Boyd.
It’s a debate Erin Weir, one of the four contenders in the race, is happy to have. “I think our federal NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, raises a valid question,” Weir said. “Saskatchewan has lost 5,500 manufacturing jobs since Premier Wall took over.”
It’s interesting to see a party running attack ads against another party’s candidates for leadership instead of waiting to see who wins that leadership race.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 2:39 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Selley isn’t impressed with the NDP’s web ad, but encourages mockery.
I remain convinced that the same basic message can be conveyed more simply and devastatingly with politicians’ own words, not journalists’. The issue here is cap-and-trade. And the damning evidence is right there in the 2008 Conservative platform … whatever occurs between now and 2015, highlighting the absurd excesses of Conservative behaviour should be to their opponents’ advantage. Laughter is the last noise politicians ever want to hear when they aren’t telling a joke.
See previously: Attacking the attacks
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 1:38 PM - 0 Comments
Well, the good news is that the NDP has avoided the trap which regularly tripped up the Libs. Rather than portraying the Cons’ dishonesty as an affront to the official opposition (which would have been rather easy to do given that the columns cited refer to lies about the NDP in the first place), the new ad highlights the relationship between the Cons and the public. So viewers with concerns about the Cons should react relatively similarly regardless of their relationship to any opposition party.
But there looks to be ample room for improvement in the execution, as the ad is both text-heavy (featuring only a single photo of Stephen Harper at the beginning), and based entirely on media opinions rather than direct quotes. Which means that it doesn’t build much of a connection between the Cons’ contempt and any actual Cons – or even any of their talking points.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 2:33 PM - 0 Comments
The Hill Times sizes up the permanent campaign.
Prof. Flanagan, a political pundit who teaches political science at the University of Calgary, said that House of Commons-funded activities can also be used for political purposes. For example, he said, “travel to targeted ridings and ethnic communities, mailouts with a response coupon for voter identification, public opinion research to find policies that will resonate with target demographic groups.” He added: “All parties do some these things some of the time, but the Conservatives are unique in the scale on which they operate and the degree to which everything is coordinated. They have produced a campaign equivalent of Colin Powell’s doctrine of ‘overwhelming force,’ applying all possible resources to the battleground ridings where the election will be won or lost.”
Prof. Flanagan suggests the Canadian permanent campaign, “which was born of minority government with public money serving as the midwife,” will slow down in periods of majority government, but will continue because of the potent political weaponry of the pre-writ advertising, its usefulness for attracting new support, passing legislation, questioning the opposition’s policies, and undermining opposition leader’s images. “It is a political arms race in which competitors will have to adopt new generations of weaponry or fall irretrievably behind. As long as they can find the money to pay for it, parties will be forced to keep up in order to compete,” he said.
Joe Comartin suggests limits should be established on advertising between election campaigns. I’m not sure there will ever be an incentive for the governing party to limit itself. So far the Conservatives have mostly had the airwaves to themselves. Given the success they’ve had with previous ad campaigns, it’s difficult to imagine why they’d want to limit the use of such ads. Presumably the New Democrats and (eventually) the Liberals are going to do everything they can to join that fight over the next three years. And if ad campaigns help the New Democrats or Liberals defeat and surpass the Conservatives in 2015, why would either turn around and institute a limit?
The next three years are going to be instructive. The permanent campaign in Canadian politics is a fairly well-established idea, but we’ve not yet seen it really joined by more than one party (the Conservatives). And it’s not much of a fight unless more than one person is throwing punches. If the NDP (and eventually the Liberals) can match the Conservatives ad-for-ad then we shall really see what a permanent campaign looks like.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
Angus Reid tries to ascertain the impact of the Conservative and NDP attack ads.
The ads definitely serve to both keep the supporters of the two main parties engaged, and irk their counterparts. New Democrats believe the Tory ad is unfair, and Conservatives feel the same way about the NDP ad.
Still, it’s important to look at how other past voters react to these advertisements. The views of supporters of the Liberal Party and the Green Party are similar to those of New Democrats, particularly on the deficit and on the low confidence expressed in Stephen Harper’s leadership.
Of course, it also matters how many people actually see each ad. The Conservative ad has appeared on television. The NDP ad, at least to my knowledge, has not. (For what it’s worth, the NDP ad does lead the Conservative ad in YouTube views: 69,264 to 33,985.)
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 12:24 PM - 0 Comments
… they nicely tie together a few easily-digestible and repeated themes (deficits, cuts, economic uncertainty) as affecting viewers directly – serving to thoroughly undercut the “trust us in uncertain times” theme that won the Cons’ majority in 2011, while also setting up a contrast with the NDP’s track record as a party which balances budgets while valuing social benefits.
Of course, it matters how many people will actually see whatever message the NDP is hoping to convey. As yet, the party isn’t offering any details. “We are not prepared to share the specifics of our advertising strategy, however our objective is to reach out to a maximum of Canadians,” party president Chantal Vallerand told me in an email this week. “We are quite pleased with the initial reaction we are getting from our initial roll out.”
As of this writing, the English version of the NDP’s new ads has 61,095 views on YouTube.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Casual political observers didn’t have much frame of reference to determine whether Dion was “not a leader” or whether Ignatieff was “just visiting” precisely because those talking points were utterly meaningless. And that meant there wasn’t much either could do to shed the initial label imprinted on them by the Cons.
But by putting the focus on Mulcair’s economic theories, the Cons are opening the door for him to talk about why the NDP’s plans make sense – which looks to be well within his comfort zone. And given that the public has been in broad agreement with the NDP in general as well as the very ideas the Cons are trying to paint as extreme, that may mean that even the best-case scenario includes plenty of downside for the Cons.
Greg also notes the risk of declaring yourself the “safe” option.
For the sake of comparison, here are some of the first ads run against Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Globe editorial board, while allowing that that Conservatives take “some liberties by accusing Mr. Mulcair of wanting a carbon tax,” deems the latest Conservative attack ad “mostly fair.” Indeed, the editors seem to fret that viewers won’t pay it enough attention.
Most people, of course, can recall nasty ad campaigns that shaped an election’s outcome. Campaigns such as the Willie Horton ad in 1988, the swift boat ads in 2004 or the intense negativity in the early GOP primaries this year all suggest that negative ads are powerful.
But empirical studies, which seek to measure the effectiveness of ads across campaigns, suggest that these campaigns may be most effective when voters are unfamiliar with a candidate — which won’t happen this fall. When voters know a candidate fairly well, the ads don’t usually do much.
Of course, however effective, negative advertising will always be subject to criticism.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM - 0 Comments
A note sent to NDP members by NDP President Rebecca Blaikie.
My Fellow New Democrat,
Yesterday Stephen Harper took aim at Tom Mulcair, launching Conservative attack ads right across Canada.
We need your help right now to fight back. A donation of $5, $10 or $20 can make all the difference.
You and I have seen it before – Stephen Harper will do anything to get his way.
The Conservatives are hoping to divert attention away from their scandals by attacking Tom Mulcair – who is standing up against their reckless agenda. They think they can bully New Democrats by spending money on attack ads – because we aren’t backed by big oil and gas companies like they are.
And that’s why I’m writing you.
We need your help right now to fight back against Stephen Harper’s baseless attack ads. Let’s make sure he doesn’t get away with dirty political games. Donate $5, $10 or whatever you can afford – right now.
Stephen Harper knows that Tom Mulcair is his biggest threat. He knows that only New Democrats stand in his way.
Let’s show him we aren’t backing down.
Canada’s New Democrats
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
Daniel Kitts notes an interesting detail of the Obama campaign’s general election plan.
But the Obama indictment of Romney in the economic sphere will extend beyond Bain and the Bay State: It will go to character. It will drive home the idea that Romney is a skillful but self-serving plutocrat whose résumé is replete with self-enrichment but who has never cared an iota about bettering the lives of ordinary people. One tagline that the campaign is considering using—“He’s never been in it for you”—encompasses Bain, Massachusetts, and every Gordon Gekko–meets–Thurston Howell III gaffe he made during the primary season in one crisp linguistic swoop.
That, Kitts suggests, sounds an awful lot like something the Conservatives liked to say about Michael Ignatieff. There is probably an interesting comparison to be made between the two politicians and not only because they sort of looked like each other in their younger years. Both are privileged sons of accomplished fathers. Both have pasts that complicate their presents (Mr. Ignatieff as a free-speaking academic, Mr. Romney as an elected centrist). Both struggle with the “retail” aspects of modern politics. And now both will be depicted by their opponents as aloof, arrogant strivers who aren’t in touch with the realities of the common man.
Mr. Ignatieff should probably be dispatched to the States post haste to follow the Romney campaign for a couple weeks and write about what he sees.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives have launched a website (mulcairsndp.ca) to compile their exposés of the NDP shadow cabinet.
The latest target is Alexandre Boulerice, whose support for Quebec Solidaire should apparently disqualify him from occupying a senior role in the NDP caucus.
See previously: Nycole Turmel and the sovereignists
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM - 0 Comments
Sadie Dingfelder reviews the latest research on political advertising.
In one study, published in 2005 in the American Journal of Political Science, Brader and his colleagues found that campaign ads that make people feel fear — with ominous music and grainy images of drugs and violence — caused people to seek more information and remember more facts from a newscast aired afterward. Ads that sparked feelings of enthusiasm in viewers — with upbeat music and images of flags and smiling children — reduced viewers’ interest in learning more about candidates’ positions, he found. “Fear ads heighten attentiveness and weaken people’s reliance on partisan habits, while enthusiasm ads reassure you, and reaffirm the choice you’ve already made,” Brader says…
In the past, campaigns have been wary of deploying negative ads for fear of backlash, says Ridout. However, that may be changing as campaign operatives see evidence that negative ads can break through party affiliations and also sway independent voters. A case in point: Mitt Romney’s February landslide in the Florida Republican primary came on the heels of the “most negative advertising campaign in history,” according to the nonprofit Campaign Media Analysis Group. The week before the primary, 99 percent of Romney’s ads were negative, while 95 percent of Newt Gingrich’s ads were negative.
Dingfelder also looks at the next frontier in political ads: subliminal messaging.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP says it is prepared to launch an ad campaign around its new leader shortly after his or her election this weekend. How quickly will they have to move? Possibly very.
Stephane Dion was elected Liberal leader on December 2, 2006. The Conservatives launched attack ads against him on January 28, 2007. A span of 57 days.
Michael Ignatieff was elected Liberal leader on May 2, 2009. The Conservatives launched attack ads against him on May 12, 2009. A span of 10 days.
(In the case of Mr. Ignatieff, he had taken over leadership of the Liberal party in December 2008, but was not officially confirmed until the party’s convention in May.)
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 4:36 PM - 0 Comments
Behold: the first-ever extramural attack ad from an Alberta Conservative government. Don Braid says it’s the first, anyway, and if I didn’t know whether it was the first, he might be the person I’d ask.
Maybe it goes without saying, but the dearth of attack ads in recent Alberta politics is not special testimony to the politeness of those politics. It’s testimony to Alberta’s one-party nature. The Conservatives took over from Social Credit in 1971, in a youth-driven power shift: Peter Lougheed, in pushing aside a government that had delivered prosperity but was increasingly behind the times socially, was so civil and restrained and all-around decent about it that the whupped Socreds practically said “Please, sir, may I have another?” The federal Liberals and the radical ’70s NDP obligingly kept Lougheed in power for another decade and a half, and as Braid notes, the premier never so much as referred to the existence of other parties. Why would it have been in his interest to do so? Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
Support is soaring for the father of seven who offers the rhetorical red meat Romney can’t
With his sweater vests and earnestness, Rick Santorum has been called the Mister Rogers of the Republican presidential race. He’s also the new consensus conservative and, all of a sudden, the new front-runner—the last man standing amidst the once-crowded field of candidates not named Mitt Romney. In the remarkably ﬂuid primary contest, where candidates have leapt to the lead only to fall back within weeks, Santorum’s surge could not be better timed. He’s catching fire just as the nominating contest heads toward the March 6 “Super Tuesday” bonanza, in which 10 states will vote.
Support for the former Pennsylvania senator has surged since his triple victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado earlier this month. Now 30 per cent of Republican primary voters nationally say they support Santorum, compared with 27 per cent for presumed front-runner Romney, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Feb. 14. Other polls suggest his national lead may be even larger. And Santorum has the potential to keep building his momentum this month with the Michigan primary on Feb. 28. Michigan was considered home turf for Romney: he grew up there and his father, George, was governor of the state. But Santorum now leads Romney there 39 to 24 per cent among likely primary voters, according to a Public Policy Polling survey. A Santorum win could deal an embarrassing blow to Romney ahead of Super Tuesday.
In a year when many Republican voters say they are looking for the conservative alternative to Romney, Santorum has now displaced Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the favourite among the party’s conservative base of right-wing voters, evangelicals, and Tea Party supporters. “It used to be that Gingrich was leading with all these groups and Romney was staying competitive enough with them to hold the overall lead. No more—a consensus conservative candidate finally seems to be emerging and it’s Santorum,” said a report from Public Policy Polling on Monday.
By Erica Alini - Friday, July 8, 2011 at 12:35 PM - 81 Comments
The Hill Times talks to Bob Rae.
You said on Tuesday that the Liberals have to be in a position to respond to attacks and that you can’t leave your leader exposed to artillery fire. What’s the plan for preventing that?
“Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of preventing it. I mean, the fact is the Conservatives have demonstrated a determination to do it. It shouldn’t take us two elections to figure this out—that when there are attacks that are made, they should be responded to in an effective way and that means that the party itself has to be turned into a very focused political organization. It also means that everything we do in Parliament and elsewhere sort of has to be connected to that. Financially, we need to reorient our budget so that we’re focused on building up a capacity to respond as well as obviously raising more money and spending it in a more focused way.”
Attack ads in between elections is a recent phenomenon in Canadian politics. How important are they and how does this change Canadian politics?
“I think it’s a mistake to think that you can make up for a lot of lost ground in the 35 days of an election campaign. The fact is that we’re in a mode that has to be seen as a ‘permanent campaign’ and that’s the way in which we have to structure our responses.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 128 Comments
Conservative campaign chairman Guy Giorno puts his faith in the voters.
Mr. Giorno said Mr. Ignatieff has no one to blame but himself for not taking the time to respond to the ads. The issue was not the fact that Mr. Ignatieff spent so much time living and teaching abroad, he said. Rather, it was his failure to explain his reasons for returning to Canada. “Ordinary Canadians said, ‘it looks like he came back just to run for prime minister,’ ” Mr. Giorno said. “You can agree or disagree with the sentiment, but that was a real-person reaction. His failure to define himself was his choice.”
… Mr. Giorno said the Tories simply let Canadians draw their own conclusions by presenting Mr. Ignatieff’s own words in the ads. “Voters deserve full credit,” he said. “They’re sharp and insightful.”