One, Stephane Dion and the Liberals have been hit with a negative ad campaign over the last year that is almost unprecedented. Using tax-payer money, the Conservatives have mailed wave after wave of ads attacking Dion's character and ability to lead. I have received as many as four in one day. The Tory negative ad campaign is perhaps the biggest reason that they’re ahead today. We have to fight back.
Two, the discussion assumes that anything negative is "negative campaigning". To my mind, PR is only "negative" if it attacks a person in an unfair way. The most clear-cut example that comes to mind is Kim Campbell’s ad making fun of Jean Chretien’s face (and man, did that rebound on her). A party's record is fair game. The Conservatives have a record, and we need to expose its flaws.
Three, there is a place for positive advertising (showing our strengths and talking about our policies) but there are some areas where the only effective response is to criticize the other party’s position. For example, criminal justice. Canada had an exemplary record in criminal justice, including jail diversion programs. We could have done a lot better, but we had great success in terms of low and falling crime rates. Harper is changing all that with policies aimed at sending more people, and especially more youth, to jail. This area requires negative advertising: Harper's record must be exposed.
To quote a recent comment, “A majority would enable [the Conservatives] to move forward with the fear-mongering tactics they have been using around crime in Canada. The self-fulfilling prophesy that happens with massive investment in the correctional industry is at the expense of more constructive and much needed economic and social policy. The experience of hopelessness and despair results in people making ends meet through criminal means. Harper and his crew are working toward a mandate to ignore the desperate life situations of those in Canada who are increasingly impoverished. The Harper agenda for this country feels less and less like Canada.”
Finally, there is a puzzling double standard here. During the last election Paul Martin was crippled by media criticism of him going negative against Harper – well before the campaign started or a single critical word was uttered. The reason this happened is that so many people find Harper’s extremist views frightening for our country. Harper is scary, and so the Liberals were expected to talk about his scariness, and so they were portrayed as scaremongerers. Go figure.
Right now, by my count, the Conservatives are embroiled in five scandals:
* Massive campaign spending fraud in the last election, resulting in a reprimand from Elections Canada, resulting in PMO interference in the civil service, resulting in possible future criminal charges.
* Twelve dead Canadians and many more sick due to tainted meat while Harper proposes to reduce food inspection even more.
* A Foreign Affairs minister with a history of reckless disregard for confidential papers and a girlfriend with mafia ties.
* An attempt to buy the vote of a dying Liberal MP.
* Their last prime minister admitting to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an arms dealer, with tens of millions of dollars in bribes still unaccounted for.