A Man who Can or A Man with a Plan?

The first Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) and Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) election ads have now been posted on YouTube. The NDP, however, has not yet posted its first.

A Man Who Can

Three Liberal ads, Pull Together and Relentless in English and Solidarite in French, all deal with the pandemic. Their message is that Canadians have worked together as a team to meet the challenge of the pandemic. The ads have numerous images associated with the pandemic (people being vaccinated, airplanes arriving carrying vaccines, people masking up). Justin Trudeau narrates and is seen throughout the ads. The English ads conclude with the meme of “leaving no one behind,” which segues into the campaign slogan: “Forward. For Everyone.” This campaign’s target – for everyone – is different from that of the last two campaigns – for the middle class (and those fighting to join it) – because of the universal impact of the pandemic. The ads are intended to make voters feel good about our country’s response to the pandemic.

The ads broadly instantiate the heroic fable in the sense that all Canadians have been heroes by doing their part to respond to the challenge. The implicit message in the English ads is that Justin Trudeau has led the team and that we should feel good about his leadership. The ad, then, is a bit of a humble bragging. The French ad is more explicit both about Trudeau’s role and about the future, and he ends the narration declaring: “Moi, j’ai envie de continuer.”

The English ads have not gotten traction: Pull Together has had 2000 views in days and Relentless, which is now being broadcast on CBC Newsworld, 9000 views in four days. Solidarite has done considerably better, with 36,000 views in four days.

A Man with a Plan

The Conservatives’ leading ad (“Secure the Future. Vote Conservative.”) is posted on its YouTube home page and is also being broadcast on CBC Newsworld. It presents Erin O’Toole walking forward, in a park-like setting, in an open shirt and coat jacket, proclaiming some of the themes of the CPC’s just-released platform, with a rock music background. (The platform’s cover shows O’Toole in a black T-shirt, the message being that Trudeau will not have a monopoly on buff this time.) O’Toole begins the ad by reminding voters of his military career: “twelve years in the Air Force taught me you need a plan for every mission.” The plan’s themes include creating a million jobs, enacting anti-corruption laws, taking action on mental health, and balancing the budget. The ad ends with the campaign slogan: “Secure the Future. Vote Conservative.”

The ad is not explicit in comparing Liberal policies or performance with the Conservative Plan, though the implication is that the Liberals haven’t created jobs, are corrupt, haven’t done enough about mental health, and aren’t committed to balancing the budget. But it is very much an instantiation of the heroic fable: elect me and the future will be brighter. It, too, hasn’t gained much traction, with 7000 views in three days.

Though the CPC is leading with a positive campaign, putting forth the plan as its value proposition, there are already some attack ads on its YouTube channel. One that has gotten some attention is entitled “the only reason for an election is because Trudeau wants a majority.” It superimposes Trudeau’s face on a spoiled rich girl in a scene from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The implication is that Trudeau is a child of privilege who expects his every whim to be satisfied, even in political life. It has received 13,000 views in five days but has been criticized by some Conservatives as juvenile and off-message.

So in the early days of the campaign both major parties are emphasizing positivity, promoting their own accomplishments or plan, and not denigrating each other too much. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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