Is Bonnie Crombie a Fighter?

In the broadcast of last Saturday’s Maple Leafs game, the national anthems were preceded by an Ontario PC Party attack ad (in Ontario but not nationally). The ad criticizes Bonnie Crombie for her previous support of the federal carbon tax and observes that she had raised taxes several times while mayor of Mississauga. It ends with the tag-line “Bonnie Crombie, she’s too expensive.”

I can’t find this ad online, which is unfortunate because I would like my readers to see for themselves. The ad is run during a playoff hockey game to appeal to a predominantly male audience, many of whom are members of Ford Nation. The narrator is female, perhaps because it plays better to have a woman attacking another woman than a man doing it. The last line encompasses a gendered slur, likening Crombie to a high-priced commodity.

Ignatieff Didn’t Fight Back, Trudeau Did

Recent political history provides two analogous situations. The federal Conservatives attacked Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff from the moment he was chosen leader in 2009 to the 2011 election. The ads’ slogans were “Michael Ignatieff: just visiting” and “Michael Ignatieff: not in it for you,” arguing that Ignatieff’s return to Canada after a lengthy career as a public intellectual in the US and the UK was evidence of his loyalty only to himself and not to Canadians.

Ignatieff chose not to dignify ads attacking his integrity with a response. The unanswered ads and the narrative they created to define Ignatieff certainly contributed to his landslide defeat in 2011.

When Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party in 2013, the Conservatives immediately unleashed attack ads with the title “He’s in way over his head,” to argue that Trudeau was too immature and lacked the judgment and gravitas to be Prime Minister.

The Liberals, then in third place in Parliament, cobbled together the money to run ads responding to the Conservatives. Here is the ad they ran. In it, Trudeau argued that Canadians deserve better political dialogue than the Conservatives were promoting, that his profession – teaching – deserves respect, and that he is a serious politician dedicated to building a better country.

The Liberal victory in 2015 was in part due to voter fatigue with the Harper Government, but also in part because the Liberals’ willingness to fight back and articulate an alternative vision resonated with voters.

How Should Bonnie Crombie Fight Back?

The way I pose the question makes it clear that I think Bonnie Crombie must fight back and must refuse to let the Ontario Conservatives define a narrative that will defeat her. There is plenty for her to talk about, including her immigrant background, a sharp contrast to Doug Ford’s life of privilege (born on third base and thinking he hit a triple), and her strong record as mayor of Mississauga. And she should respond to the gendered slur in the Conservative ad.

A decade ago I wrote a blog about Trudeau’s situation after the attack ads began and concluded “Justin Trudeau must choose, and choose very soon, whether he wants to let the Conservatives tell his story, with all the predictable consequences that follow, or whether he will authorize a different narrative.” That’s exactly true for Bonnie Crombie today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe by email

If you are interested in my weekly blog posts about politics and political narrative, as well as updates about my research and teaching, please enter your email address below to receive a free subscription.


Previous Posts