Rivers: Coming your way - The Nasty Political Ads Season

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

February 6th, 2019



“The most divisive and negative and nasty political campaign in Canada’s history”

That was Justin Trudeau’s prediction for the upcoming federal election as he addressed a Liberal fundraiser last October. And he only had to wait a couple of months to see his prophesy come true.

About a week ago federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer posted an ad on his Facebook and Twitter accounts which can only be compared to the one PM, Kim Campbell, released on national TV during the 1993 federal election.


Politicians do what they think they have to do to either win public office or retain the office they hold. Kim Campbell didn’t hold the office of Prime Minister for very long.

Campbell’s ad asserted that Chretien would be an embarrassing PM for Canada because he had a facial birth deformity compromising how he appeared and spoke. Campbell, to her credit, apologized and cancelled the ad the following day.

She claimed she hadn’t actually seen the ad, having trusted her campaign team to save her harmless. That was a huge mis-judgement on her part and it helped cost her the election. In fact she presided over the biggest election loss in the history of the Progressive Conservative party – going down to two seats. But that didn’t stop the Tories from using nasty ads in their election campaigns.

Mr. Harper was a little subtler when he went after Liberal leader Stephane Dion, who suffered from what appeared to be panic attacks that spoiled his messaging in either official language. Harper’s ad focused on images of a man struggling for words and thereby depicting the otherwise polished and professional Dion as an inexperienced bumbler. And in this case it worked.

It should be no surprise then that Harper’s protege would follow his lead. But unlike Campbell who pleaded ignorance, Scheer’s hands are all over the recent attack ad. After all who but Scheer had posted them directly onto his personal social media pages.


Politicians can sometimes be just a little too cute. Andrew Scheer at his cutest?

Mimicking the popular Historica Canada produced ‘Heritage Minutes’ which appear regularly on CBC, his ad focused on Trudeau’s occasional stutter or shortness of breath. Whatever the cause, this is something we had all witnessed during the three leaders’ debates in the last federal election. Stutter or not, the voters who gave him a majority government would have to say Mr. Trudeau won those debates.

So what does it say about Scheer, the wannabe PM, that he doesn’t get it? It’s supposed to be about what you say and not how you say it. Canadian voters respect fair play. By all means attack Mr. Trudeau for what he stands for and what he has done, but don’t just expect voters to flock to you because you denigrate your opponent for a physical imperfection, or whatever a stutter is.

Historica ad

The Conservative Party created this attack ad parody of a popular TV segment called Heritage Minutes. Historica Canada requested it be deleted, and it subsequently was.

And talk about slow learning. After the non-partisan Historica Canada complained vigorously about this cheap stunt compromising their own integrity, Sheer took down the ad. Then he posted it almost immediately, minus any direct reference to the Heritage Minutes.

Then Scheer removed it again, finally concluding that it was inappropriate. Had the intent of this little caper been to showcase the competence of the new Tory leader, all it demonstrated was nastiness, poor judgement and indecisiveness.

Historica Canada is still waiting for a simple apology. And so is the Prime Minster as are the rest of us Canadians.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

Heritage Minutes –    Chretien Ad –     Dion Ad

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9 comments to Rivers: Coming your way – The Nasty Political Ads Season

  • Stephen White

    While I will admit to being a federal Conservative supporter I have to say I find these ads truly disturbing. I would have thought the federal Tories and particularly, their backroom brain trust in Ottawa, would have learned their lesson from the backlash that ensued during the 2014 election. Some people have short memories.

    It is one thing to criticize a leader on the basis of his/her or their Party’s policies and platform. It is entirely something else to indulge in childish, demeaning and insulting ads ridiculing a leader based on physical deformities or gaffes in behaviour.

    Can we please focus on some of the critical issues confronting this country such as the economy, jobs, the environment, etc., and have a campaign where there is actually an intelligent debate on issues? The electorate are not children, and contrary to myth we actually appreciate being treated like adults and respected for having an opinion.

    As for Andrew Scheer, if he expects to win he had better distance himself from the antics and puerile behaviour that effectively “did in” his predecessor. To quote George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  • Joe Gaetan

    Why not focus on this instead “It will be “virtually impossible” to completely prevent foreign meddling in the 2019 federal election, according to Canada’s minister of democratic institutions. We saw what happened here in Burlington and anyone with a brain will see past these ads. The current partisan non-plan to address this has been replaced with signaling to the world that we are throwing in the towel,and that Canada has no interest in covering its back.

  • Susan L.

    It was a well thought out and very effective ad. Most people, including myself, never saw it and probably never would have known about it had it not been for the media.

    To take it down and then rerun it with a minor change was a stroke of genius.

    It puts me in mind of banning a book, the result is often opposite of what was intended.

  • Gary

    Priceless. A column decrying conservative political ads that make fun of the appearance of liberal opponents attracts a comment about Scheer’s appearance.

    If I were the Tories, I would run ads of Trudeau doing Bollywood dances in costume juxtaposed with scowling Indian hosts and run the tagline: “Still not ready for primetime.”

  • Ray Rivers

    JIm – thanks LOL

  • Dave

    Ray, speak for yourself as I and many others don’t fit your “rest of us Canadians” waiting for an apology. The compilation of horrible government decisions and completely unnecessary massive budget deficits is to long to list here. #justnotready #dumbasabagofhammers #emptysuit

  • One would think people had learned from the outright filth generated by the Russians in the American election debacle. Or, perhaps they learned the filth works. But, I still feel the Canadians are far less given to primitive tribalism than the Americans. The reasons would take far more space to explain than I am entitled to here.

  • Fred Pritchard

    It shows a completed lack of ethics for the CON”s to steal someone else’s trademark and use it for your benefit. Then once caught, claim it is was all in fun. Shameful a shows Scheer is really unfit to be in charge of anything.

  • Jim Ridley

    And the DIMPLES!, have you ever seen a wanna be national leader with such dimples.

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