The attack ads may actually work. Certainly many in the media and of course what passes as an intelligentsia in Canada do not like them but that does not mean they will not work. Ignatieff is not only a Johnny come lately with no firm roots in Canada but he is also the choice of Liberal king makers rather than the grass roots something the article neglects to mention. Also many of those die hard Conservatives writing checks to support Harper are actually part of the elite whether the Liberal elite kingmakers like it or not. They are just a different segment of the elite no doubt unwashed and not suitably polished either! It is interesting that both are leaders are Amerophiles. Harper loves the US conservative movement and finds them an inspiration. Ignatieff is a great support of US humanitarian imperialism and even supported the Iraq invasion.
It remains to be seen if Ignatieff forces an election together with the opposition parties. Seems to me he wants to wait for more funds and more favorable polls.
Nasty politicking sidelines issues critical to Canada
The StarPhoenixMay 19, 2009
If one even accidentally tuned into the parliamentary channel last week, it was hard to mistake the smell of an election.
The daily question period, which is rarely an exercise in intelligent debate, has sunk to the level of visceral attacks to which it had sunk before Parliament broke for the summer a year ago.
At that time, things were so bad that, before calling Parliament back into session, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared the dysfunctional atmosphere forced him to call an election. That was an unnecessary, $300-million exercise to bring civility to an unruly institution that was made even more so by the very actions of the man who claimed to be seeking functionality.
Last week, two senior members of the Prime Minister's Office were quick to assure the Ottawa press gallery, which apparently agreed to keep their identities secret, that they were taking an unpaid leave from their government work to spearhead an assault that will be the first wave of the next election campaign. This assault consists primarily of attack advertisements, distributed across Canada, which depict Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff as an elite expatriate whose only desire is to lead a nation that he has eschewed for decades.
One can't help but question if this is the best ammunition the Conservatives can muster to try to hurt the Liberal leader: That Mr. Ignatieff is aloof and erudite.
A man broadly considered to be cool and aloof himself now leads the Conservative party. That reputation has stuck even as Mr. Harper donned cozy sweaters and tried to depict himself as the Everyday Joe during the last election campaign.
As Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert pointed out Friday, however, it wasn't only in the bizarre tone of the English ads that leave people wondering if the Tories have lost their minds.
Their advertising in French is designed to widen the gap between Quebec and the rest of Canada, as it pokes at that province's insecurities. The advertisements suggest that Mr. Ignatieff's accent is too Parisian and highbrow for Quebec, and reflects a federalist view of the world whereby Quebec is merely a part North America, rather than a nation onto itself.
As Ms. Hébert notes, the tone appears to suggest that if the Conservatives can't govern Canada, they will leave ashes in their wake.
Even all this, however, is no guarantee that Canadians are headed to the polls. The Conservatives are flush with cash. They were extremely successful in depicting Stéphane Dion, Mr. Ignatieff's predecessor, as an inept leader and enemy of Quebec by taking out advertisements long before a writ was dropped.
The campaign succeeded because Mr. Dion was unable to prove the allegations wrong -- particularly when the ads questioned his ability to lead a party whose helm he was given almost as an afterthought. And while Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberals insist they are better prepared to project their own image rather than let the Tory ads define them, the proof of that has yet to come.
Certainly, Canadians are much less xenophobic than their neighbours to the south, whose Constitution requires that the president actually be born in the United States. As such trying to convince Canadians that Mr. Ignatieff is unqualified to lead because he is worldly, well- educated and respected abroad is likely to cater only to those die-hard Conservatives whose support the party already has secured.
But if the Liberals want to define themselves as a national party with Canada's interests at heart -- as Mr. Ignatieff indicated once he saw the attacks coming his way -- it will be up to them to convince Canadians to put their money where the party's mouth is. The die-hard Conservatives have already shown that they have no problem writing cheques to keep the elites from power.
The sad thing about all of this for most Canadians, however, is that while the Tory attack ads -- and the Liberal counterattacks -- have replaced substantive parliamentary debate, the country's deficit is exploding with no plan evident to bring it under control in the long run. The Harper-appointed parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, has been deprived of enough funding to monitor how bad things are, the separatists are running with the ammo provided by the premature campaign, stimulus money seems to be as slow to arrive as a prairie spring, and the Americans have launched an anti-Canadian trade war not seen since before the Second World War.
No one seems to be paying much attention.
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"Democracy cannot be maintained without its foundation: free public opinion and free discussion throughout the nation of all matters affecting the state within the limits set by the criminal code and the common law." - The Supreme Court of Canada, 1938
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