(SNN) - I’m the first guy to say that I dislike attack ads in the media. Even with that mea culpa, however, I must say as far as the attack ads go, such as the recent Conservative-produced anti-Trudeau ad that has the chattering class gabbing up a storm ; I shrug. “So what?” I wonder. Attack strategies go back to Sir John A. McDonald himself. They have been a reality of Canadian politics since day one.
Even in the modern era, attack ads are hardly the domain of the Conservative Party of Canada. How can we forget the mean-spirited charges leveled at Mr. Harper during Chretien’s rule? Surely be now, if the Liberal Party’s advertised assertions had been fact, there would be “armed soldiers in the streets” by now. Where the heck are they? And then there’s the famous “hidden agenda” Harper is supposed to have. It is still as popular a concept in some left-leaning quarters as U.S. President Barack Obama being Muslim is in extreme right-wing America (and Canada, I might add).
If, indeed, Mr. Harper ever had a hidden agenda, it is so well hidden it will never see the light of day. The man has a majority government. In Canada, this is a license to provide autocratic rule for at least four years. Didn’t like the omnibus bill? Harper had the numbers to put through practically anything he wanted. But he didn’t. His agenda was to try and do the best he could with the global realities he had to deal with, the resources at his disposal and the interests of the Canadian public always in the back of his mind.
I believe every Canadian Prime Minister had such noble goals, too. Whatever political stripe was in charge, despite obvious partisanship slants, cronyism and, yes, even occasional self-serving, devious dealings, ultimately, every government we’ve had has tried to do what they thought was best for the country, despite what their opponents said about them. I might disagree with their methods, but ultimately, I’m confidant every PM, and would-be PM, tried to do what he thought was best.
I like to think that attack ads, although rather un-Canadian, aren’t nearly as effective with us as people believe them to be. Some Canadians, but not most, might be swayed. They also might be swayed by counter-active ads. The majority, however, know that vilifying the electoral opponent is par for the course and a part of the hurly-burly of politics. In fact, complaining about the other guy’s tactics is also an ancient sport. To suggest anything different is to deny history.
If the citizens of Canada ever decided they wanted an end to attack ads or to, at the very least, introduce some measure of civility, an argument can be made that requiring all election material to feature the party leader doing the talking would be an excellent start. It might not change the game but it might moderate the invective.
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