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2011 Election, Canadiana

Why the current Conservative attack ads don’t work

Robert Fulford - Image courtesy of the National Post

Robert Fulford in the National Post has redeemed himself in my eyes – admitting that he is a three-time Harper voter will diminish your standing with me, slightly.

In a well-written op-ed piece (hilariously titled “As Canadian as Gordie Howe and Neil Young”), he explains why the current Conservative attack ads that end with a smug voice-over telling us that Ignatieff didn’t come back for us (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) are ineffective, and insulting.

I’ll leave the explanation to Fulford:

Under serious scrutiny, these attacks, and the conscious or unconscious intentions behind them, appear dumb and embarrassing. (And I say that as a threetime Harper voter.)

They are also un-Canadian. They suggest that the best Canadians remain for all their lives in Canada, a notion that has never been part of our national ideology.

The ads (and the smarmy tone of the voice-over) make it clear that there’s something wrong with a writer and teacher like Ignatieff living abroad for a long time. This is a way of isolating him, pushing him off the reservation. To call him an opportunist, meaning someone who places his career above everything else, suggests that people leave Canada only out of crass self-interest.

Well said. I can see the effectiveness of attack ads, and the allure they present to those in power, even if I fundamentally disagree with the concept and the party doing the attacking. But Fulford is right: these are dumb, and embarrassing, and I say this as a frequent NDP and GPC supporter as likely as I would if I too was a three-time Harper voter.

The point of the message is so petty and mean-spirited, like telling the ‘new’ kid he can’t play with you because his family moved away for a year when his mom got transferred to a new job before losing it and moving back home. It’s a message of fear, hoping Canadians of all stripes will circle the wagons against the unknown.

Except he is known. And he is a Canadian. And these latest ads are simply the latest manifestation of the pervasive tall-poppy syndrome that Canadians are too well known for. Harper wants you to cut Ignatieff down because he was audacious enough to make something of himself, and happened to leave Canada to do it. Which in previous generations was considered beneficial to creating a well-rounded individual, but which in Harper’s Canada means contempt for where you are from. How sad.

So much for Trudeau’s ‘Citizen of the World’ as Prime Minister.


About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen


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