Tories too busy with attack ads to govern

Not even tulip season can cover partisan rancour


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OTTAWA -- If you haven't been to Ottawa in early May, you are missing out on one of this country's most beautiful events.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/05/2009 (4947 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — If you haven’t been to Ottawa in early May, you are missing out on one of this country’s most beautiful events.

The annual tulip festival.

On every Canadian’s bucket list should be a trip to Ottawa in spring time, when the city is blanketed with over three million of the king of spring flowers, spreading cheer and colour in every direction.

Rows and rows of bright red tulips emerge in the flower beds on Parliament Hill, throwing splashes of colour that make even the most cynical among us have to stop and stare for a moment. In Major’s Hill Park, purple and yellow and pink tulips by the thousands glisten in the sunlight in the shadows of the Parliament Hill clock tower.

The National Capital Commission plants 300,000 tulips along the Rideau Canal alone, offering bikers and joggers on the pathways a true sign that spring has finally sprung.

The tulip festival, which claims to be the world’s largest, developed after World War Two when Princess Juliana of the Netherlands sent 100,000 tulips to Canada as thanks for sheltering the Dutch royal family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

This year was the 58th anniversary of the festival. But the tulips are fleeting, and only last a few weeks, which makes the event all the more special.

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The tulips are a nice distraction from the cynical world of politics that Ottawa is more known for. A world that this week once again saw politicians take the airwaves to insult each other.

The Conservatives’ new ad campaign branding Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff a foreigner who can’t possibly have an understanding of what Canadians are all about hit television screens with a vengeance this week.

In response, the Liberals put new ads on YouTube, accusing the Conservatives or ignoring real issues to attack their opponents.

As expected, Canadians in general rolled their eyes and claimed they hate negative advertising.

Unfortunately, attack ads will never be eliminated from politics, because as much as people say they hate them, negative ads tend to work.

Will most people who see the ads really think Ignatieff is “just visiting” Canada as the theme of the campaign suggests? Not likely. But it will plant seeds of doubt in some people’s minds about his commitment or his knowledge and understanding of this country after he spent 34 years away from it.

What many Canadians may not have known is that two of the Prime Minister’s senior communications staffers took a day off without pay from communicating the work of the government to hold a briefing with reporters to launch the ads.

They did this even though the party has its own communications people whose job is to promote the party not the government.

So why are PMO staff, who should have far better things to do, taking time off to hold a press briefing on the new ads?

One can’t help but think if as much time and thought went into running the country as politicians seem to put into attacking each other and finding new ways to insult their opponents, they might not need to run negative ads. Because then they’d actually be getting real work done, and could then run positive ads showing off what they’ve done for us lately.

Negative ads may make someone less likely to vote for your opponent, but if you can show a voter that you actually created new jobs, or made it easier to find a doctor or afford a child-care space for your kid, that’s going to make people more likely to vote for you.

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Manitobans should be proud of their legal representatives who are front and centre in the Brian Mulroney public inquiry. Manitoba lawyer Richard Wolson was the talk of many in the national media for his handling of the cross-examination of Mulroney on the stand at the commission last week.

Manitoba Judge Jeffrey Oliphant, who is the commissioner for the inquiry, also was lauded for occasionally piping up with a biting question or potent observation.


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