Heck of a guy - Macleans.ca

Heck of a guy


The cruellest ad of the campaign, because it is a deal-closer. The Conservative leader is no longer even bothering to talk about the other parties. Now he’s talking to the viewer, quietly, like Shelly Levene to Harriett and blah blah Nyborg. I believe the final polls will turn out to have called Conservative support a little low.



Heck of a guy

  1. Good ad. Has Mr. Harper lost weight or is his nose truly growing?

  2. I believe the final polls will turn out to have called Conservative support a little low.

    It would be the first time that’s happened in a long time…if ever.

  3. Won’t take as long as it usually does to see I’m wrong, if I am.

  4. Are they playing that ad anywhere? Will people actually see it?

    It’s a terrific ad – something they should have been doing a lot more of.

  5. “I believe the final polls will turn out to have called Conservative support a little low.”

    Paul I agree with that statement. Surely a lot of undecideds will vote for more of the same. I also think there is significant enthusiasm problem for Libs and their support will be a little lower than predicted.

    Do you know if this is real commercial, actually showing on tv, or just one of the unearned media spots? I wonder because it seems a little long and probably would cost a fortune to run but the Cons are loaded at the moment.

    It is pretty good commercial though it seems like a Christmas ad to me for some reason. And I’m sure there will be lots of people getting their knickers in a twist with that God Bless at the end.

  6. I think they miscalculate with this “family” stuff. He reads creepy and menacing to me. Does that ad help him in Quebec or buy him more votes, he doesn’t need, from Albertan Pentecostals?

    It also smacks of the crassest sort of opportunism, sneaking a glossy politcal ad in claiming it’s some sort of genuine sentiment.

    Canadian’s will be able to thank him for holding an election that will have change nothing except to aggravate division in the country. He will have restored the BQ and provided the Liberals with a chance to clean house. He and his handlers look rather sad to me.

  7. Just wondering if there was a French version of that ad?

  8. Worst comes to worst, it’s status quo ante — and elections are fun.

    Why let the Americans have all the political discourse in North America this fall? And why not make Wells, O’Malley, Wherry, Coyne, and the rest earn their paycheques?

    I’m with Wells on the poll prediction, not so much because of the ad (which I liked, but then I like Harper in general) but because the poll trends this weekend are showing a move back to the Tories. (Main question being, “Are we better off with Harper?”)

  9. Regardless of the ad I think this will be the case. I think the people who voted Con last time will vote con this tiem, so the raw numbers will be pretty similar….as for percentage that is another question, but I think they will capture a little more due to GOTV, solid core and small growth in supporters, incumbenc yada yada

    But we will all start to see in about 27 hours

  10. World markets are having their best single day ever, Toronto will open up several hundred points tomorrow, happy e-day.

  11. Wells isn’t making predictions, he’s just writing first drafts of statements that will fit with his narrative, which we will see in full when next week’s Maclean’s comes out.

    I’m actually curious to see how he sums it all up.

  12. Pete: It’s like you’re a mind reader.

  13. It was a great ad, and it even reminds me that Mr. Harper wants genuinely to do what he thinks best for our country. I just happen to disagree with him on what that is.

    One thing that really bugged me, though, (no, not the God bless) was the freaky side camera shot. If he’s talking directly to us, don’t keep weaving an “interview” shot in and out of the thing. That was just odd.

  14. There is a French version of the ad on the Tory website. He uses “j’espere que” without the subjunctive, so expect Dion to be all over him for that…Also, here’s something for the Liberal war-room, he whispers “God bless” at the end of the English one, but not at the end of the French version. Why is he withholding God’s blessings from the French? Was Margaret Atwood right in her Globe and Mail article and Harper is now calling down divine retribution on the quebecois nation?

  15. And I’m sure there will be lots of people getting their knickers in a twist with that God Bless at the end.

    Why do you think that?

  16. Robert, do you know what kind of politician says “god bless” at the end of a speech? *American* politicians, that’s who. Do you want an *American*-style PM? Do you think it is easy to be governed by Americans?

  17. I was actually wondering if Thanksgiving was going to have a psychological effect this election. I’ve heard studies done on psychological “priming.” If you show someone pictures of things they find gross then ask them to fill in the blanks, they are more likely to think that S__P is SoaP, than ShiP.

    What effect does sitting down and counting our blessings have on our decision-making on election day?

    And I wonder if the Conservatives, by inserting the reference to our soldiers away from home, are trying to make sure that we don’t forget that there are still bad people out there who hate our freedom.

  18. Ah yes, now Americans invented God, too!

  19. Dennis F —

    No less a figure than David Bowie tells us that God is an American.

  20. “comment by Jim on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 4:16 pm:

    Just wondering if there was a French version of that ad?”

    There is a German version…..

  21. The nose is actually growing, it is true.

  22. Yeah, if the idea was to build up a nebulous feeling of goodwill amongst people who don’t usually vote for him, then “God Bless” was a misstep.

  23. Mike T. my guess is that swing voters are not as allergic to God as you suggest.

    Why it stirs up such a reaction from some is beyond me.

    Oh yeah, separation of church and state, first amendment…oh wait, American concepts! Never mind.

  24. Is that really an ad, Mr Wells? I thought by law all political advertisements had to say they were authorized by the party’s official agent. Is he allowed to put this out during the final days of the election and not have it count as political advertising?

  25. Catherine, I was just wondering the same thing. Is this a “Happy Thanksgiving” announcement from the Prime Minister? In other words, who paid for this thing, him or me?

    And before I get myself completely worked into a rage, is it standard practice for every Prime Minister to send out a Happy Thanksgiving message? I can’t remember seeing one before, but that might not be proof of anything.

  26. Curiouser. Here’s a branded, official Conservative ad, with the fine print at the end, shot on the same sofa in the same canary shirt:


  27. It looks like you and I and Mr. Wells paid for this one, Jenn. It doesn’t have the official agent and it says it is from the Prime Minister.

    I don’t recall seeing a Happy Thanksgiving from our Prime Ministers before. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway, except that we vote tomorrow.

  28. What, no greeting for Sukkot? I guess he’s sending out personal dvds by mail.

    Oy vey!

  29. Does anybody know how this message got 8,000 hits? That is a lot by the standards of Canadian political youtube posts, and was all in one day (the Tories got the 6th highest number of hits in the country today). The Libs were 28th.

  30. Yeah, well, that kind of makes all the difference, doesn’t it Catherine? If it is standard operating procedure for our government, the fact that an election takes place tomorrow shouldn’t affect it.

    However, if this is a new thing they thought they’d try this year for the first time, I would very much hope Elections Canada will be all over them immediately. And I imagine the costs for the set design, camera set-up time, makeup artist, etc. etc. for both ads will be borne by one of the ads. I wonder which one?

    Paul, do you have any way of finding out whether this is something the government of Canada has always done? Also, where is this Happy Thanksgiving thing being run? Do we know if it is getting air-time, or just a youtube thing?

  31. I would imagine, if tax dollars paid for this, that it would appear somewhere on gov’t sites. But I can only find it on conservative.ca…

  32. Do we know if it is getting air-time, or just a youtube thing?

    I’m going to go out on a limb, and say it’s just a media thing. Wells & co. are giving Harper plenty of free air time. Why pay for airing it on television when the media will do it for you for free?

    Let’s assume it never aired on TV, and the Tories decide to list this as an election expense. How much will they claim from Elections Canada? Practically nothing, since they didn’t pay for air time.

  33. Mike514, it is illegal to put out any kind of election advertising that doesn’t say it is approved by the official agent. They can’t possibly claim this as an election expense. I can’t find it on the Government of Canada website either. It does seem to only be on the CPC campaign website and there it actually appears under “ads”.

    But as far as Elections Canada getting on this one … we all know that Harper is going to shut down Elections Canada if he wins tomorrow.

  34. Well, Mike, then they’ve contravened the Elections Act because this doesn’t say “authorized by the official agent of the Conservative Party of Canada”. On the other hand, if you go to all the bother and expense of producing an ad to wish Canadians a Happy Thanksgiving, don’t you think it would be a good non-waste of already spent tax dollars to give Canadians a chance to see it by airing it on TV?

    Most Canadians, you will appreciate, don’t spend all day on the Maclean’s and other blogs, or youtube, so they’ll not have the opportunity to witness the warm good feelings our government sends our way.

    This makes absolutely no sense either way!

  35. It is up on the CPC main campaign page and some CPC candidates have posted it too. Perhaps the law somehow allows this use and would make it illegal to air? I imagine CPC candidates can pull stuff from the government to help them, but if it only is used for election purposes, I would think that would effectively make it election material.

    Can’t say Harper didn’t warn us. At the beginning of the election, he said he would follow Canada’s election laws as he interpreted them.

  36. It is not up on the Prime Minister’s website, or any other government website I could find.

    I guess when he said “Canadians” he meant “Conservative supporters”. The rest of us weren’t meant to see it, apparently.

  37. Aw golly-gee, gosh and shucks. Don’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy-like ma’am.

    No, it doesn’t and I want to know who is paying for it.

  38. You’ll laugh at this, Diane, but when I thought it was Conservative election advertising, it DID make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Like, even our worst political parties aren’t all that bad.

    Ooops! Wrong again. Why is it every time I give that man an ounce of credit . . . oh. right. What was I thinking?

  39. Wow, Catherine and Jenn got Paul Wells to seriously consider that this ad contravenes the Elections Act. Is that all it takes? Two commenters working in concert?

  40. It’s no longer available. Can you describe it?

  41. Yes, Jason. It looked like the one that’s still available following Paul’s youtube link. Stephen Harper looks directly into the camera, talks about uncertain economic times, talks about the need for Conservative policies and this not being the time for risky schemes and untested theories. I think he’s referring to your guy at the end there, but he doesn’t mention any names (unlike in your guy’s ads). You can see the other ad at the Conservative party website.

  42. And when I say your guy’s ads, Jason, I do include the Campaign Diary spots on the Liberal site where Stephane Dion looks directly into the camera and delivers an attack ad against Stephen Harper. That one also doesn’t say “authorized by the official agent of the Liberal Party of Canada”. Do you want to keep going with whether political parties are breaking election laws by having ads up on their websites without that disclaimer?

  43. This isn’t an ad. There is no mention of the election or the campaign or his party or opposition parties, no requesting of a vote. It’s just a Happy Thanksgiving message from the Prime Minister and his family. If I recall correctly Harper’s Christmas greetings to Canadians have also been made available on conservative.ca

    Would he have made this message if there was no election campaign underway? Probably not. I can’t remember seeing a thanksgiving greeting from the PM before, but I might not have noticed. But either way it’s still not an ad. There is nothing in the content that could be construed as advertising.

  44. Really.

  45. It’s just Nice Stephen being Nice.

  46. Budweiser just wants you to see the horses at Christmas. They know you’ve been wondering how the horses did all year.

  47. Haha, good crack.

  48. He’s giving his final speech in BC.

    Not even trying anymore. Even the warm blue shirt is gone.

  49. Hey, Harper didn’t say please enjoy responsibly at the end of his ad. Is that illegal?

  50. Silly Canadians, rules are for OTHER parties.

  51. If it doesn’t promote or oppose directly or indirectly a party or a candidate it is not technically an election expense.

  52. Here’s my predictions (for the two main narratives on the election)

    Paul Wells:
    Harper did anything and everything possible to stay in power, including breaking his own election law, because his plan is to slowly change Canada into a more conservative country, where Conservative votes are the default.

    He was aided in this task by a Liberal leader too left-wing for most, and the fact that the left in itself is crowded with three or four choices depending on location.

    Unfortunately, on the cusp of his desired majority, he got over-enthusiastic and forgot his own game plan. He was derailed by gaffes targeting the artistic community, which showed his vulnerability in Quebec and shattered his dreams of a Mulroney coalition. He then further got derailed by the economy, etc.

    However, Harper is such a master campainer that he still pulled another minority out of a mess he helped create. He was helped in this by Stephane Dion, a weak man who I personally despise with every fiber of my being. Dion’s strategy sucked. His execution of it sucked. Liberals in wilderness for another few years. Etc.

    Coyne’s summary:
    Stephen Harper was not right wing enough and abandoned his Conservative base, by not cutting the top marginal tax rate for the richy riches in Canada, which as we all know is where all investment decisions are made. Thus, his supporters stayed home, which is why he has a minority.

  53. I hope Steve gets some tough questions about this. This is most certainly politically charged, only a few days before the election.

    Will we have Elections Canada call shenanigans on the CPC again in a few months? Hopefully the CPC is smart enough to destroy all the records before the RCMP comes knocking.

  54. Why do the Liberals have an attack ad up on their site with no disclaimer? Unless the Conservative ad is running somewhere other than their website, they are not breaking any rules.

    I may be the only person who thinks this would be amusing, but it’s be neat if Paul juxtaposed evil, classless Harper’s Thanksgiving message with principled, non-politican Dion’s attack ad from the same day.

  55. Style et al, don’t be obtuse. If the Prime Minister of Canada wishes to send us Happy Thanksgiving messages, why isn’t he doing so from the Prime Minister’s website? Why didn’t he buy air-time so the vast majority of Canadians can see said message?

    Why is he ONLY doing it on a political party website, one day before an election?

  56. Because it’s one day before the election and he shouldn’t be broadcasting partisan messages through the government, even touchy-feely ones. Are you suggesting it would be more appropriate for him to have used the government to transmit the message over the public airwaves one day before the election? I don’t think I understand your complaint. Parties are allowed to put election ads on their websites and don’t have to have the little disclaimer quoted above. And he is allowed to call himself the PM of Canada in his election material (because, at least for the next few hours, he is).

  57. Style–make up your mind. Is the Happy Thanksgiving message, where Prime Minister Harper wishes all Canadians would take a moment to count their blessings, spend time with family and friends, remember our soldiers in Afghanistan, etc. a partisan election ad (in which case it should state authorized by the official agent)? If so, what he’s doing is just fine (except he contravened the Elections Act because it didn’t state it was authorized by the official agent).

    OR, is this Happy Thanksgiving message from our Prime Minister…from the Prime Minister of Canada, the leader of the government and not a political party? In which case it should be aired on television for the Canadian people (who are paying for it) to see, and it should be put on the Prime Minister of Canada website–not the Conservative Party of Canada website.

    If the government of Canada has always sent out a Thanksgiving message to Canadians, I see no reason to let an election stop the standard practice. The ad itself is non-partisan. It made no mention of the election, the parties, his opponents and would be perfectly acceptable (IF we’ve always done this and only IF it was aired where Canadians can see it).

    But you can’t suck and blow at the same time. There’s a reason why you have to put that authorized by the agent disclaimer. And this exact thing is one of the reasons. So one knows whether one is listening to the leader of a political party, or the leader of a country’s government.

  58. Style: “Parties are allowed to put election ads on their websites and don’t have to have the little disclaimer quoted above.”

    Who said? When did this rule come into effect? You got any sources on this (aside from that one guy at Conservative Party headquarters who seems to have a problem interpreting Elections Canada material?)

  59. Jenn, go to the Liberal website and play the campaign diary clip by Dion. It is clearly a partisan message, an election ad, and it does not have the disclaimer at the end. It is not true that election ads on a party’s website need to have that disclaimer. Because, when you’re at a party website, you know it presents political messages. Much normal government business stops during the course of an election because it has a political component. It would be astonishing if a sitting PM used non-election public funds to buy airtime to broadcast a message like this.

    Nobody is sucking and blowing here – Harper is, in fact, both the PM of Canada and the leader of the Conservative party. He is not breaking or bending any election law by broadcasting a Thanksgiving message on his party’s website. He will be able to claim this as an election expense. Paul’s point was that this is a very warm message at the end of the campaign – and in stark contrast to the somewhat heated attack ad Dion presents on his website.

  60. Jenn, I didn’t see this when I posted, and our posts may cross again:
    “Who said? When did this rule come into effect? You got any sources on this?”

    In Canada, it is legal to do anything that isn’t prohibited by law. So, I can’t point to the rule that lets people do this. You will need to point to the rule that prevents this.

  61. The question is whether the government paid for the ad, or the CPC as part of their election budget? If it’s the latter, it’s ok. If the former, it’s very, very bad.

  62. No, the election ads are under “election ads”. Of course there are partisan words, video, and who all knows what else on all the party websites. They are not “ads”.

    This is clearly an ad. Or, if you prefer, a public service announcement since he’s not selling anything in this commercial. But fine, whatever, just as long as I’m not paying for it I don’t really care what’s on the Conservative Party website.

    And obviously since Thanksgiving is over and it never aired, I guess they can spend their limited advertising allowance on non-partisan messages that nobody but their own supporters see if that’s what they want to do.

    But I did take a quick peek at the Liberal election ads, and they all had the disclaimer. I have now taken a look at the Conservative website. The ads I saw also had the disclaimer. Strangely, I didn’t see the ad in question at all. If they’ve taken it down due to this controversy that indicates to me, Style, that someone’s been lying to you. What do you make of it?

  63. Why is that even a question? Do you have some evidence suggesting that the Conservatives paid for this ad with government funds? This is like asking if Dion is using drug money or funding from Iran to pay for his campaign. He certainly hasn’t demonstrated that he isn’t…

  64. No, Jenn. Don’t look at the election ads section of the Liberal site. They buy space for all of those on television or other websites, so they need to have the disclaimer. If you go to the ads section of the Conservative site, you’ll see the exact same thing. Dion’s Campaign Diary section (on the front page of their website) is the proper analogy. These are ads that only appear on the website – and there is no disclaimer on them. Look at any of the other videos on either site – if the party has not paid someone else to broadcast them somewhere else, they do not need to have the disclaimer.

    And, to use your words, you seem to be sucking and blowing here. You’re complaining that taxpayers might be funding this, because it’s a PSA or whatever. But you’re complaining that it doesn’t identify itself as partisan advertising. It’s partisan advertising that’s confined to a party’s own website. It does not need to carry the disclaimer and it was not paid for as a PSA from the government.

  65. And the Thanksgiving ad is still on the Conservative site. Under the little video box on the front page there are two buttons: one for “ads”, the other for “videos”. This one is under “videos”. The fact that it is not under “ads” but it still on the website indicates something to me…Nobody is lying to anybody here or behind the scenes – you’ve misunderstood something and I’ve tried to explain it as best I could, based on what I know.

  66. Is it really that outlandish to be suspicious that a message from “Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada” was paid for by the government as part of his official capacity as PM (think PMSH bobbleheads, for that matter), especially since the bit conspicuously lacks the ‘paid for by the registered agent of the conservative party of canada’ disclaimer?

  67. This is not an election ad as per the Elections Act. An election expense must promote a candidate or party, or oppose a different party or candidate. This does neither.

    The Conservatives are free to produce this message out of their own funds, and post it on their website, and never mention it to Elections Canada. Dion could have done the same. And no one would have shown the do-overs to embarrass him :)

    Is it designed to win votes? You bet your ass it is. But it’s not an election expense as per the Elections Act.

  68. Why does everyone think that ‘God Bless’ is such a horrible term. Do they honestly think that the only religion that has a God is Christianity? Nearly every religion has some sort of concept of God, so simply saying ‘God Bless’ should only tick off the atheists and scientologists.

    He’s not saying ‘Jesus bless you christians and damn the rest of you to hell”, its simply two words: ‘God Bless’. That simple statement would be appreciated by nearly anyone with religious convictions, and regardless of who they view God as.

  69. Is it really so outlandish to believe that Barack Obama, who associates with an unrepentant terrorist and has a Muslim step-father, is an Arab terrorist, or at least supports them? Yes. In this case, you can go to the Liberal site and check that there are similar things there. It’s fine to be suspicious, obviously, but the next step would seem to be trying to find some basis to refute or support those suspicions.

  70. So it’s ok to offend the 10-20% who don’t have superstitious beliefs in supernatural entities?

  71. John, did you see Paul’s comment up-thread about Budweiser and the horses?

  72. Bonus ‘side-bet’ prediction that few are making-just in case:

    Quebec will shock the nation by delivering 18 or more seats and a majority to Harper.

    Think about it–an entire province piffled away because of a tiny cut to arts?? Nope.

    Either Harper never had any support in the first place, or the polling numbers represent ‘protests’ that won’t materialize at the voting booth.

    If Harper’s support was never there, then he will be held to 7 seats.

    If Harper’s support 2 months ago was real (I believe it was), then calm down and trust me on this:

    The Harper supporters will vote; the dissers won’t. This is why Duceppe is begging people to get out, especially young people. Duceppe knows that the Bloc support he ‘enjoys’ now is flimsier than the pro-CPC support we had seen for months.

    My official bet is still Harper 144, but if I’m correct about Quebec’s actual voting inyentions tomorrow, we will see Harper 160.

  73. Thanksgiving is a Christian festival. So, you’re kind of screwed right there. And Harper signs off his messages for other religious festivals with the appropriate religious phrase. If atheists are so upset about it, they can go eat a communion wafer or something.

  74. Style, yes I did. I can’t say I understand the reference to Budweiser & horses. But unless the horses are running for Parliament that’s not an election expense either.

  75. Okay, Style. As I said, if I’m not paying for it I’m fine with whatever they want to put on their site.

    The part I missed was that they’re also not claiming it as an election expense (i.e., not taxpayer funded nor taxpayer funded through Elections Canada) which they can’t because it doesn’t have that disclaimer. So I’m basically okay with it again.

    Sorry for the bother.

  76. Style: “Thanksgiving is a Christian festival. So, you’re kind of screwed right there.”

    And that’s exactly why that didn’t bother me. If it had been some non-religious holiday we were celebrating (say, Remembrance Day) it would have bothered me enormously.

  77. I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to believe you, John…I think Paul was suggesting that Budweiser is showing you the horses because it wants to promote itself, not as a public service to people with horse fetishes…Maybe there’s some sort of analogy to what Harper was doing with his ad?

    My guess is, he knows he’s got a bunch of suburban men ready to vote for him, so he put this ad on the website for them to share with their wives and girlfriends – hoping it would dispel their belief that he is an arrogant, bullying jerk and, thereby, promote himself as a potential PM. Why Dion has a video of himself riding in his bus and complaining about Harper is not as clear to me – but the Liberal strategists are much smarter than me…

  78. Some of the comments here are so small minded. Why don’t you just accept the Thanksgiving greetings at face value and move on? I don’t think that some of you people deserve a Happy Thanksgiving. So I hope those of you who appear to be chronic partisan malcontents had a rotten one.

  79. Style,

    Maybe. If Paul is talking about a real Budweiser ad, I PVR everything I watch on TV so I don’t see much TV advertising anymore.

    But I agree 100% that this message was made because Harper wants to look Prime Ministerial on the eve of an election.

    My only point was that this should not constitute an election expense because it fails to meet the criteria for one as set out in the Elections Act. Therefore, no need for an official agent to authorize it, and no need to claim it as a campaign expense.

  80. Derek: So if he said Allahu Akbar you wouldn’t have qualms with that? After all, it’s the same god, isn’t it?

  81. Right, but by making Harper look Prime Ministerial, the ad promotes him and his party in the election, so that makes it an election expense. The disclaimer thing is because the Tories haven’t paid to air it anywhere other than their website. Jason Cherniak could explain all this more clearly than me, I’m sure. It’s a shame he couldn’t stick around – but Liberal staffers will need their sleep tonight.

  82. Thanksgiving isn’t a Christian festival, for Heaven’s sake. It’s a harvest festival that probably goes back a very long way (well into pagan times). You’ll note that some of the first participants (mythologically speaking) were pagans.

  83. Style, the Parliament of Canada can thank whoever it pleases for the harvest. If Christians attribute blessings to God, that’s their prerogative.