Trudeau Must Fight Back

The election campaign is certainly not going as expected. According the CBC News Poll Tracker, the Conservatives are leading the Liberals by 2 percent in the popular vote, and pulling even in projected seats. The Liberals had expected a cakewalk and have run an uninspired campaign, as demonstrated by the ads we discussed in a previous post. Voters are questioning the rationale for calling an election in a pandemic. Finally, Erin O’Toole has projected a positive image that is attracting voters who were turned off by Andrew Scheer and Stephen Harper in previous elections.

O’Toole and Cats and Dogs

O’Toole is picking issues that appeal to small constituencies and promising small changes, gimmicks even, to attract votes and attention. His latest ad, Protecting Animals, is almost out of Saturday Night Live. Appearing with his family and their pet dog, he promises to ban puppy mills, cosmetic testing on animals, get tough on abusers who hurt their spouse’s pet, and make it easier for women to leave abusive homes without having to leave their pets. These are all good things, but do they represent an advance on current law? Are they even within federal jurisdiction?

Standing up to Anti-Vaxxers or Enabling Them?

There are two big issues where there are sharp differences between the Liberals and Conservatives: vaccine mandates and passports, and climate change. The former has been dramatized by the crowds of profane and disrespectful anti-vaxxers following Trudeau, attempting to disrupt his meetings, and sometimes succeeding. The Liberals have put out a contrast ad – Back to Normal – in which Trudeau makes clear his differences with O’Toole about mandatory vaccination for travel and for public servants. The ad’s title, background music, and selected images are all very low-key.

The Liberals could produce much stronger ads that include images of the protesting anti-vaxxers and in which Trudeau denounces both their means and their ends. He could make the case that the country needs vaccination of nearly the entire population to combat the Delta variant, that his government has recently put down $1 billion to support provincial vaccine passports that will soon be in place in – name the provinces. He will not back down to the anti-vaxxers nor empower them, as O’Toole is doing, by continuing to treat vaccination as a matter of choice and testing as an alternative to vaccination. And rather than an insipid title – Back to Normal – he could choose something confrontational, perhaps borrowing his father’s famous question “Who Speaks for Canada?”

Standing up for the Planet

A similar ad on climate change would focus on the key differences between the Liberal and Conservative positions, namely the Liberals’ support for a carbon price of $170 per tonne by 2030 and the Conservatives’ reluctant support for something far less, as well as the Liberals’ full support for, and Conservative’s hedging on, commitments in the Paris Accord. The title could be “Who Speaks for Future Canadians?” or “Who Speaks for the Planet?”

Time is getting short and the Conservatives are in the lead. The Liberals have two big issues to fight on, and for which they have strong and consistent public support. If not now, when?

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