Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

It's Moron Time, again, when the political parties roll out television ads designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of voter intelligence.

As expected, because this is how they do politics, the Conservatives unveiled an attack ad against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The Conservatives tried attack ads against Mr. Trudeau soon after he became Leader, but they did not seem to work too well.

Their televised attack ads have resumed. Conservatives have been running negative ads on AM radio stations about Mr. Trudeau for some time. Now, they have unveiled the first of what will undoubtedly be a series of attack ads on television in the weeks to come, or perhaps we should say the months to come.

Story continues below advertisement

The NDP and Liberals have started televised advertising, too, with soft-sell pitches about what nice guys their leaders are, and how in touch they are with the "middle class." The ads are inoffensive, squishy and quite likely, therefore, won't be very effective. (The Conservatives have produced one of this kind about Mr. Harper.)

Which is why in due course we can expect the NDP and Liberals to toughen up their attack lines on television against the Conservatives, because negative advertising works.

Recall the Brian Topp memo. Mr. Topp ran the losing NDP campaign in British Columbia (he is now Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley's chief of staff). He wrote afterward that the NDP had erred in not going early and negative against the Liberal incumbent government.

Chattering-class members and those who follow public affairs closely groan at television ads, negative or otherwise, because they cheapen discourse and deaden rational thinking. They aren't designed for these people, but rather for those who do not follow public affairs closely or at all and therefore have a very low information base about public issues.

Advertising's appeal is almost entirely emotional and simplistic. Television is overwhelmingly a medium of emotion, not rational thought, so there is no point trying to place any rational argument in a 30-second spot.

Hit fast and hit hard with a nice soft-sell or a punch to the gut. That's what television advertising is all about and that is what Canadians get from the parties.

Negative ads work because they get the viewer's attention. Built on focus group research, they accentuate a prevailing uneasiness about an individual, in this case Mr. Trudeau's inexperience.

Story continues below advertisement

They rally the party faithful who like seeing their side bash the other. They infuriate supporters of the party leader being clobbered, but who cares about them? The point is to appeal to those who have not formed a strong opinion, and to invite viewers to feel fear, loathing or uneasiness about the leader being condemned.

It's ironic, if you choose to see matters this way, that companies cannot trash their adversaries on television. But regulations have been written and conventions have developed that in the realm of political speech, just about anything goes on television and radio (and presumably these days on social media).

Since the Conservatives have more money than the NDP and Liberals, you will see and hear more Conservative ads in the period before the Oct. 19 election is called, after which spending limits apply.

But unless you have been away from Canada, or recovering from an illness in an operation ward, you will have seen repeated Conservative ads paid for by you, the "hard-working taxpayers" of Canada.

Who among you has not seen the Economic Action Plan ads, the ones for the Canadian military or the most flagrantly partisan of all touting the measures in the previous budget? This outrageous use of your money for partisan purposes has been banned in Ontario and Britain, where third-party vetting is required of government advertising to make sure it does not serve partisan purposes.

Were either the NDP or Liberals to form the next government, singly or together, would they dare to remove this advantage from themselves and do an Ontario or British reform? We can only hope so.

Story continues below advertisement

While they were at it, they could stop public servants from being paid overtime (or paid at all) to do films of ministers spouting propaganda, as per the screeching partisan Pierre Poilievre's latest ministerial venture into videoed self-congratulation. And they could shut down the film crew that follows the Prime Minister (at your expense) to produce the frequent 24/7 films about him and his government's fine deeds.

They could, in other words, respect taxpayers' dollars.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies