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The Conservative Partys’s attack ads show Justin Trudeau in a mock striptease and cast aspersions on his readiness to lead.
The Conservative Partys’s attack ads show Justin Trudeau in a mock striptease and cast aspersions on his readiness to lead.

Ashley Martyn

Conservative attacks on Trudeau will backfire Add to ...

It appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party may have its priorities backwards – at least that’s what the Liberal Party of Canada hopes you’re thinking – in the aftermath of their latest public relations stunt.

The Conservative Party wasted no time going on the offensive against newly minted Liberal leader Justin Trudeau this week, crafting a website – www.justinoverhishead.ca – with online videos and cringe-worthy quotes no less than 24 hours after Trudeau landed the party’s top job. Justin, they claim, is simply “in over his head”. Whistling circus music and blinking stars are used drive home the overarching theme of juvenility, inexperience and instability.

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From a strategic perspective, the Conservatives’ eagerness to tarnish the squeaky-clean image of Justin Trudeau is understandable as much as it is predictable. Their canons of negative attacks have worked twice before on Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. The Conservatives defined these former leaders before they had the chance to utter a single word about themselves. Can anyone really blame them for doing this again – for repeating tactics that worked, somewhat flawlessly? Politics is a blood sport, after all.

This time, however, the crosshairs on Justin’s forehead were well foreshadowed. It was not a matter of if, but when, the Conservative war room would pounce. What was not expected was such a low-ball, lame attempt to make a comedy out of Trudeau’s charity work and take a decade-old interview completely, and somewhat stupidly, out of context.

Could it be that, this time around, the Tories’ negativity is reaching a boiling point with Canadians, too? Are the assaults on the opposition benches just, well, getting old? Granted, Justin grew up in the public eye and Canadians feel some form of familiarity with him. He’s not a new face in politics, so re-defining him is a taller task. Even still, since the anti-Trudeau ads were released, public sentiment may not be what the Conservatives had hoped for – individual donations to the Liberal Party have skyrocketed, raising $336,000 in the last 48 hours alone. Contributions to the Liver Foundation have nearly topped $10,000 since Monday, with more than 200 donors claiming to have donated because of Trudeau.

That’s not why the Conservatives missed their mark, though. Where the two former Liberal leaders were chastised for bad policies and living abroad, Trudeau, it seems, is being picked apart for supporting a good cause and paraphrasing his father’s views, not his own. Sadly, the Tory camp look like they are grasping at straws if that’s the best they can do.

And, ironically, these latest attack ads are redefining the Conservative Party as the big, blue, mean-spirited bully who just can’t play nice with others. And bullying, as they teach us in grade school, is not an indicator of strength, but insecurity. Maybe – just maybe – Harper is afraid of a renewed Liberal Party with Trudeau at the helm. It certainly appears that way.

Justin’s Obama-esque mantra of “hope and hard work”, established during his run for the leadership, now gleams even brighter through the Conservatives fog of negativity. The more the Tories play dirty and throw mud, the more Justin will appear as a viable, positive alternative to the PM’s chair.

So has the method to the Tory madness gone overboard this time? This latest round of satirical imagery wouldn’t resonate well, some may suspect, with not-for profit organizations like the Canadian Liver Foundation, and all of the families that are dependent on their research and community involvement. Nor has it settled well with the Huffington Post, who owns the rights to that now infamous striptease video, and never authorized the Conservative Party to use it.

The Canadian Liver Foundation was quick to hop to Justin’s defence and issue a press release confirming his involvement with their cause, stating that they are “ grateful for Mr. Trudeau’s past support of our fundraising efforts” and described how his participation in the November 17, 2011 event helped them raised over $128,000 for the foundation . Though why stop there: the CLF should have demanded an apology from Stephen Harper for authorizing such as disrespectful and malicious piece of media to even go public. Perhaps they are leaving the ball in Justin’s court to ask on their behalf, if he may be so bold.

Even so, would Harper have the compassion to apologize to the Canadian Liver Foundation (whom Justin Trudeau’s ’shameless’ act helped raised $1,900) for using an act of good will for his political gain?

It’s doubtful – because when it comes to Justin Trudeau and the revival of the Liberal Party – I’m afraid Harper is the one in way over his head.

Ashley Martyn is a community manager on Justin Trudeau’s social media team.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

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