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Saturday, February 17 2018 @ 02:22 MST

The Conservative's Justin Problem

Canadian PoliticsIf you've been living under a rock for the past week, Justin Trudeau was elected leader of the federal Liberal Party. Not that big of a surprise really, but at least it wasn't the coronation that Ignatieff received. So far this has proven to be a nightmare for the ruling Harper Conservative for a couple of reasons.

First, though Micheal Ignatieff was eminently qualified to be Prime Minister, he had only marginally more charisma than Stephen Harper. Given that Harper has the charisma of a dead rat, this isn't saying much for Ignatieff. This lack of charisma allowed the Harper Conservatives to define Ignatieff as too academic and a foreigner. Since Ignatieff had little to offer the media in terms of charisma, the media (and Canadians) pretty much ignored him and listened to the Conservative narrative.

Enter Justin Trudeau. Trudeau is pretty much everything Ignatieff is not. Ignatieff was strong on policy but weak on charisma and presence. Trudeau is fairly weak on policy, but like his father is hugely charismatic, which works well in the media. So when the Conservatives ham-fisted attack ads came out the day after the leadership was announced (I'm amazed they restrained themselves that long) they flopped. First because the ads were so bad that apart from the Tory core voter, it pretty much turned the public off of the Tories and second that Trudeau's charisma cuts through the negativity like a knife.

This poses the first problem for the Conservatives, Trudeau's inexperience is working in his favour here. The reason that the Tory attack ads flopped so badly is that there just isn't a lot of crazy things Trudeau has said in existence, so they had to pick what they could find. These were a badly cherry picked quote of Trudeau quoting his father while explaining his father's views and a video of Trudeau doing a stripteasesque dance for charity. The ads were so amateurish that even the National Post, a paper who has never seen a Conservative they didn't like or a Liberal they did, was panning them. Which makes one wonder about the state of the Tory war room, given that they've had months to prepare the ads.

I can imagine the scene in the Tory war room when Trudeau threw his hat in the ring. The rubbing of hands together like a B movie villain at the thought of being able to use the Trudeau name again to show that the Liberals are being lead by the antichrist. After all, one can't say the name Trudeau in Alberta without getting evil stares and this should be an opportunity to drive a stake into the heart of the Liberal Party, killing it once and for all. Given this I suspect that the Conservatives didn't really put that much effort into the ads since the hatred within the Alberta wing of the CPC towards Liberals in general and the Trudeau name specifically borders on the pathological. They simply assume the rest of us have the same opinion so they believe they don't have to do much to get the rest of us on side.

The problem with this is that the rest of Canada isn't Alberta. Quebec wasn't too fond of elder Trudeau, but that didn't stop them from electing him over and over again. Also the only thing Quebec hates more than a Trudeau, it's a Conservative. So really the only fertile ground for the lousy ads was Alberta. The rest of the country was/is relatively neutral to the junior Trudeau and amateur hour ads to the contrary probably won't change that at all. Why, the charisma factor again. Justin Trudeau's charisma would counteract a well written and executed negative ad campaign. This is especially true with the low quality ads the Tories have thrown at them.

Not only are the ads poorly executed, they are likely actually hurting the Conservatives as opposed to Trudeau. Like similar ads against Jean Chretien, it would seem that these are being seen as mean-spirited and a small backlash against them is evident. It's even being reported that since the ads aired there's been an uptick in donations to the Liberal party. Both are small occurrences but with a three way race in the national polls, these are not occurrences that the Conservatives can afford.

So despite the perceived opportunity that Trudeau's election to the Liberal leadership has provided the Harper Conservatives, they've tripped over themselves out of the gate. The ads themselves seem to be turning people off the Harper brand and even worse sending money to the Liberals. Based on the number of emails I've received recently from the Conservative party begging for money it would seem that they're not getting the financial response they were expecting. That or their vaunted CIMS system isn't as good as advertised since I've made it abundantly clear through the years I'm not a Conservative supporter (just waiting for the robocall directing me to a polling station in Inuvik). So if the Tories are being forced to throw the net wide, it doesn't bode well for them in the short term. If their ham-fisted attempts at sliming Trudeau continue, I suspect it will become a long term problem for them in both financial support and at the ballot box.

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