Fish in a Barrel: The Conservative Attack Ads

Posted on January 19, 2011

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My god these are stupid.

“The world is a scary place, but don’t worry. Our hardworking leader will protect you from the nasty protesters and scary financial charts. Just look at this obviously staged footage of him working late at night!” I know it’s really cliched, and bordering on Godwinnian, to make allusions to Orwell but Jesus Christ this patronizing, paternalistic bullshit reminds me of Big Brother.

The ad mentions some stuff about job creation and our (relatively) low deficit, but there is no evidence that these things are the result of Conservative policies. The stimulus funding is mainly going to politicized infrastructure projects, and the fact that we have the the lowest deficit in the G7 is due to the fact that we had the strongest financial regulations before the recession started. Stephen Harper’s marketing team fails to mention that it was the Conservative party that tried to dismantle these regulations and if they had succeeded, we would be in much worse shape right now.

At any rate,  I’m not willing to take it on faith that everything will be alright if we just trust the government. Regardless of how scary the world is, I’m quite happy to see an incompetent government replaced.

An easy response to these ads is the following quote:

“We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.”

-Stephen Harper, in a letter to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, 2004. (source)

Why did Stephen Harper earlier endorse a move which he now so vilifies? Mainly because he is no less ambitious than either of the other party leaders, and is happy to cynically exploit the electorate’s short memory to suit his needs.

It also warrants mention that there is nothing inherently wrong with a coalition government. Coalitions are a common way to form government in the parliamentary system, and they currently exist in healthy democracies such as Britain, Australia, Israel, India, and Finland. It doesn’t matter what Harper has to say about the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois; the fact is that if enough people vote for them that an alliance between them and the liberals has a majority, then they have the right to claim power.

Oh, and separation hasn’t been on the table for over ten years now. Just saying.

The degree to which this ad is effective will be a pretty good indicator of the maturity of the Canadian electorate. Nobody likes taxes, because nobody likes to give away their hard-earned money. I didn’t like the fact that I had to pay $24 in library fines today, but I didn’t demand the librarian’s resignation.  The unfortunate reality is that you don’t get something for nothing. The money our government collects goes to pay for a lot of neat things, and when money is tight it’s usually better to collect more money than to stop funding said nice things.

The “Tax and Spend” label makes about as much sense when applied to politicians as an “Earn and Spend” label would if applied to a regular person. Every single politican is a tax and spend politician. The difference is the degree to which they tax, and the kind of spending they prefer. Stephen Harper, for example, chooses to spend the government’s money on prisons, oil subsidies, and unnecessary military hardware.

The next two are basically the same thing:

Yawn. Argumentum ad Hominem. Totally irrelevant to Ignatieff’s potential fitness as Prime Minister. Since when is it such a bad thing to want your country to be a little better? As to the whole American thing, Canada allows dual citizenship. It is possible for somebody to be both Canadian and American, and to feel a loyalty to both countries. Canada is not inherently the best country in the world, and it is not automatically more deserving of love than any other country. Canadian exceptionalism has no basis in reality.

And why would I care what Ignatieff will do if he loses the election? The idea is for him to win. Presumably if that happens, he will not be returning to Harvard. How exactly would it hurt the country to have a Prime Minister who would have left had he not been elected?

I hope I don’t sound too partisan. Right now I’m not so much pro-Ignatieff as anti-Harper. One of the many reasons I am so eager to see this man out of power is that he continually refuses to talk to the electorate as though they were adults. These ads are just another example of this.

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