As we talk about a lot at this blog, the next Federal election is just around the corner. Or at least it feels like it’s just around the corner, as everyday we start to feel the tension rise in the House of Commons and we see signs of what is go come. We talk a lot about the “perpetual campaign” these days, that really the campaigning never stops, and there is some truth in that.
But even with that being the case, there are signs that we see much closer to the campaign that tell us it’s coming. It’s like seeing the buds on the trees, or the grass starting to green in the Spring, but usually not met with the same happy joy. Yesterday we saw some reporting on one such sign starting to sprout out of the Ottawa bubble, as reported by Global News’ David Akin:
Yes, the election ads have started to flow. Given the current state of our electoral laws in Canada, if you’ve got the money to spend, it makes lots of sense to run ads early on. And given that the Conservatives always seem to have the most money, it makes sense that they are the first out of the blocks with TV ads. As the report shows in the two ads they link to, they are basic “Streeter” ads, talking to “a random person” in the street. The messaging in the ads are something I found interesting, but I will come back to that in a second. Before going to that though, I saw another ad from the Conservatives last night while watching the playoff hockey game on Sportsnet, one that was very different and had me stand up and take notice:
Wow folks, that ad. What to make of that? Firstly, I’m going to come back to the language used in all three ads; these ads don’t strike me as much as Conservatives trying to grow their base as it is an attempt to suppress the progressive vote. The words they use and the issues that they talk about in the ads mostly don’t match up to what the Conservatives have been talking about or their priorities. That especially true when they raised Jody Wilson-Raybould, by name, in one ad. As the actor in the ad said, she’s believable, but that doesn’t make the Conservatives any more credible by inference.
These aren’t “yeah Conservative!!!” ads, but they aren’t overly typical attack ads which say “they’re bad, vote for us”. With the tagline “Not as Advertised”, that’s not a call for people to vote Conservative. That’s a call for people to abandon the Liberals and the Prime Minister, which honestly can work just as well for the Conservatives if those voters don’t coalesce mostly around one other option.
The Trump ad though is the one that really made me stand up and take notice. When you hear the language used in that ad, knowing that it all describes Trump and his presidency, but then seeing it effectively used to describe the Trudeau government, it leaves an impact. It’s not an impact that’s going to make people say “hey, I like Andrew Scheer”, but it’s one that will stick in the craw of many progressives who are already very anti-Trump. It’s also a pre-emptive move on the part of the Conservatives, who have to know that they are going to get labelled as “Canadian Trumps” themselves. This ad won’t blunt that potential criticism, but it will muddy the waters, which really seems to be the Conservative goal here.
For a first volley in the air war of the 2019 election, this is an effect first shot from the Conservatives, mostly because it’s not exactly what we probably would have expected from their side. Will that messaging and approach work to undermine the Liberals and their message? Time will tell but that last ad in particular probably isn’t what the government was expecting to see come out. We’ll see how everyone reacts to the start of the air campaign but these ads are as sure a sign as any that the next Federal Election is just around the corner.