Conservative Attack Ads 2015, Volume 1

Posted on August 4, 2015


Because it’s campaign season, it’s time for me to return to my old standby of reviewing terrible campaign ads. This time around, if I have time, I’ll try to devote some attention to all of the party’s ads, but I suspect that I’ll be mainly focusing on the Conservatives. That’s partly because they have the most money to make ads, but also because, let’s face it, their ads are reliably the dumbest of the bunch.

So without further ado, let’s start with the first batch! Here they are below, if you can stomach them.

The Tories’ first two ads of the campaign take place in a dystopian future where Conservative electoral reform has replaced a nationwide election with a six-person hiring committee. If that sounds like a borderline dictatorship, don’t worry: They’re at least superficially representative of Canadian diversity. Besides; it was probably necessary to prevent voter fraud or something.

The committee reviews the applications of Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair in turn, and are badly disappointed by each one of them. They go over some of Trudeau’s past gaffes, before concluding that he’s an inexperienced celebrity who is “just not ready”. Their first line about Mulcair is a snide comment that “he’s been at it for a while”, then they go into a detailed account of his political history, pointing out that “he’s no fresh face”, while an ominous subtitle labels him a “career politician”. Because if there’s one thing hiring committees hate, it’s experience.(Forget what they just said about Justin Trudeau.) They then go over some of Mulcair’s career history, such as his defection from the Liberal party, in tones that are apparently meant to tell us that we should give a shit. And then the ominous voice at the end informs us that we “can’t afford” him.

My first impression of these ads is that this is a TERRIBLE hiring committee. Maybe one of the opposition parties should film an ad about the hiring committee that hired the hiring committee (“Hm… Confused white hair man. Seems to think experience is a bad thing. Are we sure we want him choosing the next leader of the country?”).

But enough with the jokes. Justin Ling, an actual journalist, has already done a better job at that than me. My real first impression of these ads is that the Conservatives apparently believe in the well-respected goldilocks theory of politics. If you’re too much of a rookie, then you’re “just not ready”, which is bad. If you’re too much of a veteran, then you’re a “career politician”, which is also bad. But if you’ve got juuuuuust the right amount of experience, then you’re a “strong leader”. Or something.

Naturally my next question was to try and put some hard numbers on this. How experienced do you actually have to be before you’re ready to be a Prime Minister? And how much more experienced do you have to be before you’re a career politician? I study history, so the logical approach to this seemed to be to look at previous Prime Ministers. That’s how I made this chart. It’s based on incomplete wikipedia research, so it’s a bit quick and dirty, but it should give you the gist:

According to this chart, the average time in politics before becoming the Prime Minister of Canada is 17.5 years. There is a lot of variation, however. Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was only an MP for three years before becoming Prime Minister, for example, and most people seem to think that he did a passable job. William Lyon Mackenzie King, who saw us through the Second World War, only had two years’ political experience before leading the country! So while Trudeau falls short of the 17.5 year figure by more than a decade, I’m not sure if that’s really such a damning fact.

As for Mulcair, he’s been a politician for 21 years-less than five years more than the average Prime Minister before becoming Prime Minister. In fact, 21 years is the exact same as the amount of time between Stephen Harper’s first political job as Progressive Conservative MP Jim Hawkes, and his election as Prime Minister. If you want to judge whether or not somebody is a career politician by the amount of time they spent working *non-political* jobs before entering politics, then the historical average is 14.7 years-a figure that Mulcair just barely exceeds with his law career prior to being elected to the Quebec National Assembly. Harper, meanwhile, had just 7 years of undergraduate education and low-level jobs in the oil sector before scoring his first political gig. So if Thomas Mulcair is a career politician, then Stephen Harper is much more so.

My biggest impression from these ads, however, is that the Conservatives must have a very low opinion of the average Canadian voter. Not just because the hiring committee which is meant to represent them is so completely nonsensical, but because these issues *don’t matter*. “Just not ready” and “Career politician”, like “Not a leader”, or “He didn’t come back for you”, are meaningless buzzwords meant to stir up an emotional response but not much else. These ads don’t spend a single word discussing policy, or any actual leadership credentials. If nonsense like this succeeds at swinging the electorate, then perhaps Canada deserves Harper. Or maybe we should just abandon democracy and go with the hiring committee idea.

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