Pubdate: Tue, 11 Feb 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Howard Elliott


If the tone and content of a leaked Conservative strategy document are
any indication, the Harper government is very worried indeed about the
political threat posed by the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals.

The six-page document, obtained by the Toronto Star, outlines a plan
to "drive, disrupt and dismay" delegates to the Liberal convention
scheduled for late February. The plan is to focus on attacking Trudeau
at a personal level, using messaging such as "Trudeau is over his
head, has poor judgment, only interested in legalizing marijuana vs.
PM's strong, stable leadership, focused on what matters most to Canadians."

The paper puts forward "more gimmicky ideas," including distributing
rolling papers featuring Trudeau's face and the Liberal logo to poke
fun at the leader's comments about the legalization of pot.

It would be naive to suggest other parties - probably all of them -
don't engage in similar shenanigans. The difference here is that this
is from the uber-confident Conservatives, suggesting increasing
anxiety even before detailed policy announcements concerning Trudeau's
platform in the election next year.

Most of what we now know about Trudeau's platform is in general terms
- - that he intends to make the plight of struggling middle-class
Canadians the overriding theme in the next election. Caucus policy
resolutions will provide details and will probably come out of the
convention, but leaked information suggests they will include a royal
commission to study and fix inequities in the tax system that hurt the
middle class, along with more money for job-creation projects, help to
keep elderly Canadians living independently, and credit card fee limits.

Wouldn't it be a refreshing change for the Conservatives - and for all
parties for that matter - to focus their criticism on substance rather
than personality and style? Rather than attacking Trudeau for being
"over his head" and the relatively minor issue of marijuana law,
wouldn't it make more sense for the Harper Conservatives to poke holes
in matters of substantive policy? Spending on job creation at a time
of austerity, changing the income tax system and legislating credit
card limits would seem to be juicy enough fodder for Conservative

But taking the high, or at least higher, road isn't the way politics
is played in Canada these days. Negative and personal attack
strategies and advertising seem to work; at least that's what the
parties that employ them believe.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Harper Conservatives have
already spent millions on television ad campaigns attacking Trudeau
for being shallow and entitled. And his personal appeal rating among
Canadians sits at about 29 per cent, dead even with Stephen Harper. Is
there a message in that?  
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