NDP hopes to avoid Liberals’ attack-ad fate

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Every election we hear the same old story: attack ads won't work. Voters growing more cynical of politicians will see right through them. People like positive, not negative...

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/03/2012 (3788 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Every election we hear the same old story: attack ads won’t work. Voters growing more cynical of politicians will see right through them. People like positive, not negative…

The sad truth, however, is that they do work, and quite effectively. If anyone has any doubts, just look at the Conservative party. It has been relentless in its attacks on the opposition, most notably Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, two former Liberal leaders who couldn’t seem to shake the reach of the ads.

Dion was portrayed as weak and “not a leader,” while Ignatieff was cast as an opportunistic intruder who was “just visiting Canada.” Effective? Just look at where they are now to determine that.

And last week, the Tories set their sights on Liberal interim leader Bob Rae, questioning his tenure as Ontario premier. The ad, featuring photos and videos of Rae now and in the 1990s with the word failure splashed across his face, cites his handling of the Ontario economy from 1990 to 1995 as proof he is unfit to govern the country. It’s an accusation he will wear as long as he’s the face of the federal Liberals.

Rae says he doesn’t intend to “sit back and let them define who I am,” but the party is still deciding whether to dip into its precious fundraising dollars to fight back, especially when he isn’t the permanent leader.

For the NDP, however, there will be no wasting time with decisions. The Official Opposition is already preparing to face a fresh round of attack ads from the Conservatives after the party choose Thomas Mulcair as its new leader on Saturday. Hoping to beat its rivals to the punch, the NDP is planning a “significant” ad campaign to promote Mulcair before the Tories taint Canadian impressions with attack ads of their own.

It’s costly, but it’s a wise move by the NDP, whose new leader will have nowhere near the same sway and recognition that Jack Layton had with Canadians.

Will going on the offensive work? No one knows for sure, but if the party did nothing, one thing is for sure: it would be a long, long three years for the new leader before the next federal election.

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