The Conservatives' new ad. No, not Rae, the other one. -

The Conservatives’ new ad. No, not Rae, the other one.


Everyone’s going to be talking about the giggling Bob Rae ad the Conservatives finally get to unleash, five years after they prepared similar ads on the assumption Rae would win the 2006 Liberal leadership.

On that ad, I’ll say only this: The Conservatives still can’t believe the Liberals didn’t launch a strong ad campaign to counter their blitz against Stéphane Dion in 2007. They still pinch themselves when they recall that the Liberals let their opponent define their leader without response. That the Liberals let it happen a second time, to even more devastating effect, with Michael Ignatieff is even harder for Conservatives to fathom.

If the Liberals don’t respond to this ad campaign immediately and with some ambition and creativity — not to hit Harper, but to define Rae — they might as well fold up the party and go home.

But I find myself more intrigued by the other ad, which seems like an afterthought:

Stephen Harper, strong leadership, blah blah blah. One thing to watch will be how frequently this ad plays in the rotation. I’ve got a hunch it’ll be quite prominent, because I think the prime minister has a problem and its name isn’t Bob Rae.

Three different pollsters report a recent increase in the number of Canadians who think the country’s on the wrong track. Perhaps the most striking is Abacus Data, whose young founder David Coletto is often on SunTV and who is sometimes thought to poll in ways that please the Harper Conservatives. And yet.

Abacus, like other pollsters, shows the main parties’ topline voter support holding pretty steady, with the Conservatives roughly on track to repeat their majority victory. But the underlying numbers suck. “Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are headed in the right direction?” Respondents who say the country’s on the wrong track are up 15 points since last August. Those who say Canada’s on the right track are down 11 points over the same period. The streams have crossed, which as we learned in Ghostbusters is bad news: wrong-track respondents now outnumber right-track. When the question is about the government’s handling of the economy, instead of the country in general, disapproval is up 15 points since January. The prime minister’s personal unfavorable rating is up seven points.

Same with Ekos, whose CEO Frank Graves is generally thought to be less of a fan of the Harper Conservatives. “Looking at how Canadians feel about the direction in which the country is heading, we come across a rather shocking finding,” Graves wrote in his March 16 poll findings. “For the first time since we began measuring national direction in the late 90s, those who feel the country is going in the wrong direction now outnumber those who believe it is going in the right direction (albeit insignificantly).”

And finally there’s Forum Research, which had not asked the question before January but which found wrong-track numbers significantly outstripping right-track numbers when it did ask.

It’s worth repeating that the Conservatives’ top-line voter-preference numbers haven’t budged. But I wrote a whole book in 2006 about how when your underlying numbers start to decay, your voter-preference numbers won’t stay airborne for long, and the people who told me about that happening to Paul Martin are now running the country. Harper literally travels with a lectern with the word CANADA on the front of it; if Canada’s in trouble, so is he.

Why would the Conservatives’ wrong-track numbers be spiking? Well, for one thing, because the country’s not on a great track. We’re starting to see headlines like Jobless picture in Canada grim, as the U.S. recovery finally picks up steam and the Canadian recovery starts to stall. And regardless of the objective picture, I know from conversations with people in social settings that a lot of people are tired of being worried about money. We tap into that anxiety with considerable success when we put housing-bubble stories on the cover of the magazine. That story did really well for us.

Meanwhile it’s less clear than it usually is what Harper’s plan might be. As I gather nuts and berries for my next book, I pick up interesting details. Here’s one: after the May 2011 majority election victory, Harper let everybody take a long vacation for the first time in half a decade. He used to hate vacations, and not just his own. He’d schedule a cabinet meeting between Christmas and New Year just to keep a dozen ministers and 80 of their staff and 6,000 civil servants on their toes. But in May he finally dropped his guard, and people went to Brazil and Umbria, and by the time school came back two cabinet ministers were engaged and… for the first time since anybody could remember, there was no ready-made 80-page brain-in-a-jar Strategic Master Plan with parts for everybody to play.

As we’ll discuss in the next issue of the magazine, a plan came along soon enough — within days after Barack Obama postponed the Keystone XL decision in November — but it’s taking time to implement that plan, and in the meantime the Commons is in chaos and messaging is slack and, well, the government isn’t acting very Harperesque. There’s a lot riding on budget day and the selection, five days earlier, of a new Opposition Leader. The next few weeks should clarify things. For the government’s sake, the next few weeks had better start clarifying things.

So there is unaccustomed dissatisfaction in the land, and the government is shaky at precisely the moment it had thought it was finally solid. These new “positive” ads seem designed to adjust ominous perceptions. Expect to see a lot of them.



The Conservatives’ new ad. No, not Rae, the other one.

  1. Rec’d for the ghostbusters reference.

  2. If I had to guess, I’d predict 80-90% of the ad buy is for the positive ads. My guess is Rae ads are mostly to stir things up online and within the Liberal fold.

    • Maybe. But are you possibly missing Wells’ point about having the two previous leaders of the party defined by the Conservatives? Having previously underestimated the impact attack-ads on your leader would have, are you really going to do that again?

      • Wells’ point is obvious.  It’s common knowledge.  He’s not missing it.

        • Wells from the above post:
          “On that ad, I’ll say only this: The Conservatives still can’t believe
          the Liberals didn’t launch a strong ad campaign to counter their blitz
          against Stéphane Dion in 2007. They still pinch themselves when they
          recall that the Liberals let their opponent define their leader without
          response. That the Liberals let it happen a second time, to even more devastating effect, with Michael Ignatieff is even harder for Conservatives to fathom.

          If the Liberals don’t respond to this ad campaign immediately and
          with some ambition and creativity — not to hit Harper, but to define Rae
          — they might as well fold up the party and go home.”

          CalgaryGrit in response:
          “My guess is Rae ads are mostly to stir things up online and within the Liberal fold.”

          It seems to me the point is being missed.

          As in, a reasonably well know Liberal blogger doesn’t think the adds are that big a deal in terms of their use or influence on shaping the perception of Rae in the mind of the general public. That was EXACTLY the attitude Wells was saying the Liberals should not be taking.

      • And if we take Warren Kinsella at his word. Apparently Rae just let old Michael Ignatieff last week he is running for leadership and will make life hell for any LPC MP who tries to run. He will kill the LPC not Harper.

  3. ‘The drums are getting louder….the natives are restless.’

  4. Kinda sad for NDP that we already know they don’t matter.

    • Just wait for them to decide on the leader that will take them into 2015. The Conservatives will start giving that person some attention within weeks. 

      • Oh they will have the ads for the leader, but still won’t matter.

        • Given the lack of explanation to your assertion it is difficult to tell if your attitude toward the NDP is one of:
          a. indifference
          b. contempt
          c. deliberate baiting of partisans
          d. all/none of the above

          Regardless, I think we’ve seen in the past that whenever the government starts not taking the official opposition seriously, it leads to problems for the government. Fortunately for the Conservatives you aren’t one of their strategists.

        • You honestly think they’re going to treat the new NDP leader with kid gloves?

          Even if the man behind them isn’t alive anymore, Herr Harper knows full well what happens to anyone whose attitude and approach are identical to yours.

    • You must live in Ontario.

  5. The ads look as if they were produced in the U.S.

    As for the Tories numbers dropping, suspect it has something to do with their touting American style values (guns, abortion, anti-labour, pensions).  Not what people voted for.

    • Countries in Europe have also been increasing the retirement age to 67. It is not a US phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. One can certainly fault Harper with the way the pension issue has been brought before the Canadian people (I do), but that’s something different from the Americanization of pensions.

      The CPC PM and cabinet ministers have said absolutely nothing official about abortion. Harper has made it clear he wants nothing to do with that 3rd rail. Some CPC backbenchers have made noise on the issue, but, in my books at least, that counts for nothing.

      The long gun registry was at best effective only as a crime investigation tool. It was not a crime prevention tool since one had to (and still has to) have a gun license in order to legally buy a long gun. Equating getting rid of the long gun registry (and keeping the requirement to have a license in order to buy a long gun) with presumably Republican American gun values is a stretch since Republicans seem to almost believe that everyone has the right to their own unlicensed, personal thermonuclear weapon.  Also, note that before election, the CPC clearly stated its intention to do away with the long gun registry if elected – people who voted CPC knew that was a vote for the registry’s demise.

      I’m also not too sure if the CPC government has of yet done anything on the labour front that previous Liberal governments have not already done. Possibly, w.r.t. Air Canada?

      • Actually, I’m not totally sure that long-gun license thing is quite correct anymore.  Because if you own a gun and want to sell it, all you need is “no knowledge” the guy who wants to buy it has had his license revoked.  You don’t need to know it is a valid license, in other words.  Obviously, the last thing you’d do is ASK the silly question, because then you couldn’t sell him your gun!

        •  If that is indeed correct, it seems unreasonable. One would think it should be  necessary to have to prove one has a firearms acquisition license in order to acquire a firearm.

          Did that change when the long gun registry was eliminated, or was it always that way? If the latter, you can’t blame the Tories for it; if the former, by all means have at them as it makes no sense to me for one.

      •  It was also excellent for enforcement of firearms prohibitions.

  6. Mmm, more tax payer supported propaganda from Steve. Why isn’t the NCC up in arms about this? 

    • I believe the party produced these ads. Which means the only taxpayer support is the credit that we give to people who donate to the CPC.

      • I know it might seem like a quibble but it’s supported by our tax system — meaning some people get a benefit that they wouldn’t normally otherwise get except through our taxes. 

        • Does this apply to the supporters of the opposition parties or just to those evil Conservatives?

          • It applies to everyone — however it is only the Cons who revert to Rove when they can’t seem to defend their malfeasance. As Rae says, how can Harper defend raising the deficit by $150 Billion?

            You should know, I’d be bitching about the other parties also if this was their first choice for “domestic policy.”

          • If the deficit was not raised REGuest you would be the first out of work along with 2 or 3 hundred thousand of your LIB?NDP freinds.It was called getting the country out of a depression dork?Or do you think putting half the country out of work would have been better.????

          • Bertie — you didn’t get the memo — there is a prohibition against personal attacks on this board. Please either debate the issue at hand or don’t bother commenting at all.

          • What malfeasance would that be? There is no evidence that the Conservatives have profited personally since coming to government. If you are talking about the robocall issue its nice that you have appointed yourself judge, jury and executioneer despite any hard evidence to support your opinion.
            You can talk about American style politics if that suits your fancy but it sounds so infantile and silly.
            Rae or anybody sitting in opposition has no reason to criticize the deficit they were demanding it and more during 08-09. Remember the calls that the spending was not high enough or it was too slow in getting out etc. etc. Even the lame coalition was proposing a $30 billion deficit and it would have been higher if they got into power you can be sure of that.
            You can try to rewrite history if you like but the fact is the country was pulled into a recession not of its own making. The world faced an economic meltdown and is still not out of the woods. Harper agreed and supported the world when they decided to spend 2% of GDP in stimulus spending.
            Tell me which policy would you not have implemented…extending EI benefits, baling out the car companies, infrastructure spending across the country to maintain and create jobs.
            To suggest that any other government would not have done what the Conservatives did is disingenous and false.

      • And that credit is how much again?  75% – at least 50%? 

        I find your a bit rich.

        • Yeah, but it applies to every party equally. So singling Steve out for this isn’t quite fair, as it applies equally as much to every bit of Liberal party advertising, Green advertising, NDP advertising, etc.

          If somebody wants to argue against the credit for political donations as a whole, I’m certainly in support. Hell, if people want to argue against the whole concept of “non-refundable tax credits”, I’m on their side.

          But singling out one party for something that is systematic doesn’t strike me as fair.

          • Obviously, the CPC favours donations largely subsidized by taxpayers – it did cancel the subsidy based on votes – and it is quite fair to single them out.

  7. I luv the soundtrack…but where are the jets…there have to be jets.

    Well, maybe best not right now.

    • They’re readying the subs for their ‘Run silent, run deep’ campaign.  The one they’re  refurbishing out here managed to actually shoot something off the other day.

      • I heard it was Pollivere since he was cheaper than a torpedo. And now the bloody things back in the shop again – bent torpedo tube.

      • “The one they’re  refurbishing out here managed to actually shoot something off the other day.”

        What did it manage to shoot off? It’s own periscope?

    • No pandas or unicorns — I’m disappointed. 

  8. This commercial would have been a whole lot more effective with a recording of Bob Rae giggling inanely in the background. Amateurs…bloody amateurs.

    They could have at least photo shopped Rae into that beach scene, lolling around in his speedo, giggling at the waves coming in, while ON burns in the foreground. Hmm, maybe that’s next up.

  9. Now, where’d I put those entrails ? I can smell’em. Must be around here somewhere …

  10. Considering all the media hoop-la everytime the Conservatives get surprised and put on the defensive (Attawapiskat, invalid gay marriages, robocalls) I’m not surprised.   Plus there is a fair amount of public sector union negotiating going on – never a happy time.
    Harper seems to have some big fans in other countries.  It would be interesting to see how many countries feel their government is “on the right track”
    “The Conservative revolution in Canada is a revolution in the true sense: a turning of the wheel, a righting of that which had been placed on its head. It started with Preston Manning, one of the most under-appreciated conservative leaders of the late twentieth century, and it culminated in the election of Stephen Harper with, finally, a proper majority.”
    Good luck with the nuts and berries Paul!

    • Yeah, but where’s the Conservative revolution?  We’ve had a revolution in contempt, sure, but what happened to small government, no deficit sort of stuff?  Of course, when you are comparing Conservative values and you are Mr. Protectionist as this guy seems to be, I guess conservativism is defined in other terms.  I guess being contemptible is enough?

    • In the UK It’s called the ‘Torygraph’ for a reason.

    • “Harper seems to have some big fans in other countries. It would be interesting to see how many countries feel their government is “on the right track”

      It would be interesting to see how many other countries vote in Canadian elections.

      Half the folks writing at the Torygraph still think the time of Queen Victoria was an enlightened golden age, repatriating the constitution was a bad move and Canada  still a domionion. 

    •  Put that one up with the British guy who said robocalls was an east west thing putting upright outraged easterners vs. shrugging NRA Westerners.

      Someimtes I think all politics is local because the farther you go, the less you know.

    • It’s called a mutual admiration society.

  11. Its pretty bad when Wells has to quote the admitted Liberal supporter Frank Graves whose opinions appear to be more unhinged the longer the Conservatives are in power. Polls can say anything between elections and usually the Conservative numbers are underestimated by pollsters.

    However, the fact is when an actual election is held Canadians have to pick one of the three and Harper had it hands down to the other leaders on offer and certainly will have it hands down in 015 when he is up against Bob Rae (believe it) and probably Mulcair.

    This ad is a shot across the bow for the backroom boys of the Liberal party and the rest of the Liberal party. Annoint Bob Rae and you will see a lot more of this.

    When Rae has to appeal to donors so he can respond to this ad you know there is not a lot of money in the coffers to respond to a Conservative serious ad blitz.

    • I quoted three pollsters, Starting with Sun Media’s house pollster. You might want to stay away from the word “unhinged.” 

      • Hey Paul:

        I have no problem with the other two pollsters but anybody in the media who quotes what Frank Graves has to say has an anti Conservative bias. His polling and his opinions are so far off base they border on the absurd. You should have stuck with the first two pollsters to support your case.
        So anybody who gives you a little love tap is considered unhinged eh Paul. I’ll accept the moniker if those in the lamestreet media accept it as well.

        • “an anti Conservative bias,” when observed in the light of pro Conservative bias, bears an uncanny resemblance to common sense.

    • He gave you three choices. What’s the matter Merv, has it spoiled your signature: “just look at the polls if you don’t believe i know exactly what Canadiians think”?

      What are you going to do for an encore now? Tell us all what you know Canadian’s should think regardless of pollsters…wait i think you just did!

      • She does not support the Conservatives. Read some of her columns.

        • You ever hear her gushing with Rex Murphy? She’s a Con.

          Anyway it’s irrelevant — you don’t like the numbers but you can hide from facts no matter how much you want to plug your ears and shield your eyes.

          • No I have not.

            However, I am not worrying about the numbers at all. I have listened and watched the anti Harper crowd for 6 years now with their plainful cries that this is the end of the Conservatives.

          • Que sera sera.

  12. I love the how the Harper boosting ad starts with the 2008 recession to talk about his economic prowess. Just run the clip of him saying during the TV debates that “I think if we were going to have  a recession we would have had it by now” juxtaposed with his claim of economic ability.

  13. Whether a campaign is effective or not depends upon whether it has “traction”.  The single most important element to traction is the degree to which the facts portray the truth.  Ignatieff was portrayed as an academic who lived most of his adult life outside of Canada, only to return at the prospect of becoming PM.

    If one reviews the facts, Ignatieff was an academic.  He lived most of his adult life outside of Canada.  And it is clear that he only came to Canada after serious discussions with Liberal leadership for him to run for PM.   It was not how the Conservatives “defined” Ignatieff, it was who Ignatieff was that was the problem.

    Dion prided himself on his dog named Kyoto and presented himself more as a spokesperson for an environmental lobby group that one intent on leading the country.  Again, there was traction, because the Conservatives essentially just had to portray who Dion was. 

    Now the Liberals have a old left-leaning political warhorse (with all of the baggage that entails) at their time of “revitalization” as a party.  The Conservatives couldn’t have dreamed up a better candidate to run against.

    Liberal Party, heal thyself and stop blaming the dastardly Conservatives for daring to run elections to win.

    • ‘Dion prided himself on his dog named Kyoto and presented himself more as a spokesperson for an environmental lobby group that one intent on leading the country.’

      You could at least TRY to be serious sometimes Chesterson.

  14. In other numbers, Nanos poll shows Liberals back on top in Ontario:

    Libs 37.8% Cons 35.9% NDP 21.9% Greens 3.9%

    and in second spot in Quebec.

    Top-line numbers thrown off by an uptick in the Maritimes.

    I wouldn’t put much faith in the polls themselves but this move into attack mode makes me think the polls the Cons pay for are showing the same thing. Ontario was the crucial break-through for the Harper Conservatives in 2011 and key to any enduring majority….

    Still, with 3 years of majority ahead it seems a little early to panic.


  15. As for the “wrong track” thesis.  There’s a simple axiom in politics and that is: events matter.  If one thinks that the US economy picking up will not improve the Canadian economy (it’s remarkable how well Canada has done with a poor US economy) one is engaging in wishful thinking.

    I look forward to the reams of editorials and “analysis” like this post, by left leaning journalists over the next three years, explaining how Harper is surely in trouble this time.  If only the rest of Canada could see Harper (and his conservative shortcomings) as they do.

    Harper being in trouble may well be true come next election as no party can stay in power indefinitely.  But it is difficult to ignore the pattern, election after election, faux scandal after faux scandal (recall the campaign “Bubble Bursting” as one of hundreds of headlines wrote regarding the democracy destroying act by the CPC of ejecting two liberal supporters from a campaign rally – the horror) accompanied by wishful thinking masquarading as “analysis” as to how Harper is in trouble.  And after the tales of Harper’s political sky imminently falling, we would see the shock in those same reporters when Harper’s popular vote and seat total rise…again, and again.

    Harper may be in trouble?  I would be shocked to hear otherwise.

    • What???

    • “If one thinks that the US economy picking up will not improve the Canadian economy … one is engaging in wishful thinking.”

      I can’t speak for the others on here, but as much as I want to see Harper tank, I certainly don’t wish for the economy to tank in order for it to happen, as your statement implies non-CPC supporters want. Unlike certain individuals I could name, I put the country above partisan politics.

      As for these ads, I’m really really really really tired of the neverending campaign. The CPC needs to spend less time campaigning and more actually governing.

  16. Paul, why would the Liberals bother wasting any money running ads to define an already very well known “interim” leader who will be out of the job long before the next election…unless they’ve already decided he’s no longer “interim”?

  17.  If you look carefully, you can see Emily firmly affixed to my comments:

    • No,you can see ‘Emily’ totally bewildered by your word salad.

      • Nope,makes even less sense now

  18. Anonymous conservative sources say the ads are due to impending robocall findings and resultant byelections and possible minority house situation

    • If I had a million dollars I’d have robocalls calling every constituent in Calgary Southwest to let them know that Harper may be taking on the job of Head Economist of some major oil corp based in Dallas before the end of his “mandate.” Free speech and all that.

  19. If the anti Canadian Government press would start telling the truth about the accomplishments of this Government instead of keeping up their childish anti Harper 6 year old vendetta ,i am sure the polls would show a huge gain for Canada going in the right direction.The constant lies about our Government being printed by our own press is disgusting .Thank goodness for the on-line bloggers and SUN NEWS.Real Canadians know the truth and do not trust what is printed anymore.Sad,but this generation of reporters has destroyed another great profession,reporting the news truthfully.They have turned their newspapers into no more than a place to read sports stories,because no one trust’s the news reporters to print the truth.SAD BUT TRUE.

      • Heh. Actually.. he has a point. Lord knows how I laugh at the tin-foil wrapped heads of those who accuse the media of a leftist bias, but anti-government may be a fair claim — after all, the media gets more views/sells more ads when they can dig up problems with our government then when they report “all is well”. The kicker is, that applies to any government.

        Of course, his “anti Harper” screed is complete tin-foil production.