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NDP out to define Pallister

'Contrast ad' gets screening at convention

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Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told the party faithful at the NDP convention Saturday morning not to worry about low poll numbers.

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Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told the party faithful at the NDP convention Saturday morning not to worry about low poll numbers.

The NDP is banking on a 30-second political attack ad to air next week during the Winter Olympics to reverse its almost two-year descent in the polls.

The ad -- the NDP call it a "contrast ad" -- was unveiled Saturday during the party's annual general meeting at Canad Inns Polo Park.

Premier Greg Selinger's chief of staff Liam Martin said the ad is factual and tested in front of focus groups before getting the green light.

"It puts on record what Brian Pallister stands for," Martin said. "The thinking behind the ad is that we want to get our message out now to define Brian Pallister and what he stands for and do it while people are watching TV."

The ad will cost an average of $6,000 to air each time. The NDP used the convention to solicit donations from delegates toward that.

"It's a significant ad buy," Martin said. "We think it will help change the conversation as well as cut through some of the other clutter that we hear out there."

The release of the ad comes as the party attempts to reverse its fortunes as they gear up for the next general election in the spring of 2016.

That includes stopping its spiral in popular support since it took office for a fourth consecutive term in October 2011. That tailspin is tied to the New Democrats extending the number of goods and services to be taxed under the provincial sales tax in 2012 and then raising the PST by one percentage point to eight per cent in last year's budget.

The expulsion from caucus last week of NDP MLA Christine Melnick, who now sits as an independent, has also tarnished Selinger's leadership, although the Melnick affair took a back seat during the weekend convention that wraps up today.

The ad depicts Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister as a cutter of basic essential services, and says should his Tories triumph in the next election, Manitobans can expect to return to an era of fewer frontline services, particularly in health care and education. The campaign includes the website PallisterCuts.ca and a mailbox brochure drop.

Pallister has already said the ad says more about the desperation of the NDP than of him.

The ad, also posted on YouTube, features a theme Martin said still resonates among Manitobans -- that Pallister sat at the "big kids table" of former Tory premier Gary Filmon and helped bring in severe austerity measures to cut government spending.

"That's the interesting thing about Conservatives-- they don't change a lot," Martin said. "And the feelings Manitobans have about the Conservatives and their plan haven't changed much either."

Earlier in the day, federal NDP and Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair spoke to the 450 delegates in a speech that touched on everything from getting rid of the Senate to the next federal election in the fall of 2015.

"What is it with this undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable, under indictment Senate? Let's get rid of it once and for all," he said.

"Canadians are looking for leadership," he added. "They are tired of being told that they have no choice but to alternate between the red and blue doors of Liberal and Conservative corruption."

Mulcair told reporters the Selinger government should not believe its low polling numbers.

He pointed to his own low polling in the last federal election and the election results that saw the NDP win 59 of the 75 seats in Quebec.

"I know Greg Selinger has being doing the tough things," he said. "Greg and his team have my full support. Manitoba under NDP stewardship is a progressive place. I'm watching the Conservatives in Ottawa. I know what the Conservative agenda is and I'm going to do everything I can to keep the Manitoba government in place... because I know it's a government that takes care of people first."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2014 A3

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