When I first moved to Africa my employer assigned me a luxury double-cab pickup truck. I quickly learned that that particular model was the number one choice of car jackers (a particularly nasty form of crime that was rampant in Tanzania at the time). So I gave back the pickup and asked for the cheapest vehicle they had, which turned out to be a small, very basic Suzuki Samurai. But then I learned that car jackers' number one vehicle preference for car-jacking double cab pickup trucks was, yes, the Samurai - so the Samurai was in fact the most stolen vehicle in the country.
What has all this to do with Conservative strategy in attack ads?
The ad this week was a light lob to energize the Conservative base and generate some revenue. The revenue will likely be used in a massive onslaught aimed at undermining Justin Trudeau with the Canadian populace. The timing of that onslaught will probably be determined on the fly: when Justin makes a gaffe or has a dip in popularity or an election is imminent, the Conservatives will be ready to take advantage of it.
I mention this because Liberal supporters in the Globe comments sections are so confident that Harper's attack ads can't hurt Justin. I hate to see us underestimating Harper again. There is no doubt in my mind that it was attack ads that brought down Ignatieff in 2009. He was riding high in the polls, but the "Just visiting" attack ads raised a question mark that sapped enthusiasm even from staunch Liberal supporters. The effect of the ads was brief, but just long enough to throw Ignatieff off course. And as we know, he never recovered.
The Conservatives have pioneered the practice (in Canada) of running attack ads outside of election campaigns. It is a weapon that has been extremely effective both in generating donations and in undermining other party leaders. The Conservative ads aren't truthful (the one this week used a quote so out of context that it totally misrepresented his words) and their impact is short term, but that's all they need.
I don't see how we're going to survive without joining in. I'm not suggesting that Justin should try to become a nasty pit bull character like Harper: I think we need attacks that come a step away from the leader. Just as high schools have nice-guy principals and disciplinarian vice-principals, we need an attack dog in the upper ranks of the Liberal party, or a new generation of Rat Pack.