Plagiarism?

Tories accused of following Tea Partier's script in new ad

The Globe and Mail

A slick new Conservative television ad that seeks to present Stephen Harper as a statesmanlike leader bears an unusual number of similarities to a recent commercial for the Tea Party-backed Republican former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, and his 2012 presidential run.

The 60-second Tory spot titled Our Country, which unfolds like the trailer for a Hollywood political thriller or a boastful Molson Canadian ad, mixes archival scenes from Canada's glorious past, including the 1988 Olympic torch relay and a black-and-white newsreel snippet of marching soldiers, with sweeping images of the country's awesome geography, fighter jets and a multicultural passel of faces.

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All are set against a backdrop of a thumping orchestral score and the speech Mr. Harper delivered to the Conservative Party faithful last January on the fifth anniversary of his 2006 ascent to the Prime Minister's Office, in which he declared: "We want Canada to be a True North that is as strong and as free as it can be, in every way that matters - the best country in the world."

But hours after it was released on the Conservative Party's YouTube channel Tuesday, the Liberals uploaded a video to their own YouTube channel titled " Harper ad strikingly similar to Tea Party Governor ad," which stitched the Conservative spot to the end of Mr. Pawlenty's commercial promoting his political action committee and his memoir Courage to Stand: An American Story. The book was released in January by the Illinois-based Christian publisher Tyndale House.

The Pawlenty ad is a noisier, flashier, more expensive version of the Conservative spot, though both feature fighter jets, flag waving, ringing speeches by the leaders and clips of important national hockey games. (Mr. Pawlenty's has the 1980 U.S. Miracle on Ice, while Mr. Harper's uses Paul Henderson's Game Seven winner from the 1972 Summit Series.) Where Mr. Harper says Canada "must be great for all Canadians, it must be a country of hope and an example to the world," Mr. Pawlenty's features a clip of the Berlin Wall falling and the Statue of Liberty.

Each also features the men striding purposefully through a hallway as the music track turns bombastic. And both conclude with white-on-black title cards promoting their protagonists, like those used in trailers for Will Smith or Matt Damon action movies.

When Mr. Pawlenty's ad hit the Internet in January, its near-apocalyptic tone was widely mocked for feeling like a trailer from the action-movie director Michael Bay, who has helmed both the Transformers series and amped-up ads for Victoria's Secret.

The Pawlenty plagiarism allegations threaten to derail the Conservative attempt to pivot in their messaging, from using their ads to sow fear over Michael Ignatieff to a more hopeful stance.

But Mr. Harper wouldn't necessarily enjoy all of Mr. Pawlenty's offerings: In an ad released last month prior to his appearance at a Tea Party Summit in Arizona, Mr. Pawlenty praises the movement as "a great addition to the conservative coalition."

A Conservative spokesman said: "We are proud of the ad. We are proud of our country. We don't comment on strategy."

With a report from Paul Attfield