The Conservative framing of Stephen Harper

Aaron Wherry on a sunny new ad about the Prime Minister


The Conservative party has a sunny new ad about the Prime Minister.

Unlike the last round of Conservative attack ads, which were quietly televised without an online presence or advance warning, this new advert was promoted to the party mailing list last night—”We’re going to be launching a new, positive ad featuring our Prime Minister in his own words”—and posted to the party website. Though if you want to see the video, you have to supply the party with a name, email address and postal code: the video is hosted on YouTube, but, at least as of now, it is unlisted so it can’t be found unless you have the URL.

“Better off with Harper” is the line. It isn’t a wholly original line—there seem to be precedents for the “better off” construct—but it’s probably interesting nonetheless. First, it suggest to me the Conservatives still see value in the Prime Minister’s individual appeal. Second, “better off” seems to do the trick of looking both backward and forward. On that count it recalls, at least for me, Ronald Reagan’s famous test for incumbents.

So “Better off with Harper” is the preferred framing for the Conservatives.

In this case, the Conservatives buttress that idea with the fact that 1.1 million jobs have been created since the low point of the recession. That number is more impressive-sounding if you don’t know that 14 months ago the Prime Minister was boasting of one million new jobs. Our Jason Kirby looked at the last year of job growth in July and Mike Moffatt has since looked at employment here and here.

Unlike the quietly televised Trudeau ads, this ad is being written about. We’ll now see what sort of television run it gets—if you use the hashtag #SawAnAd to tweet any sightings we can all follow whatever rollout it receives.

Update. As noted here and here, the “better off with Harper” line isn’t new—the Conservatives used it in 2008 as well (though in that case they included his first name).

And if you like numbers, our Stephen Gordon has compiled a handy chart for comparing the pre-Harper economy with our current situation (with the necessary caveats).

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The Conservative framing of Stephen Harper

  1. I imagine in the next year the Cons will try anything….on the idea if you throw enough mud some is bound to stick.

    Biggest thing I’ve noticed is that Canadians are ignoring it all.

    • Emily…..

      If you’ve been paying attention….the average Canadian is woefully ill-informed, because they basically ignore anything that they think doesn’t pertain to them.

      If in doubt….ask any random group of strangers on the street about politics.

      • That’s what the cons feed and thrive on, dumbing down of politics, Hoping Canadians stay stupid. I wouldn’t take Canadians for granted my friend, apparently 42% seem to be well in tune with todays politics. With a scandal a day government in power, Canadians ears and memories are wake up..

  2. “Better off with Harper,” is going to strike different people in different ways. To me, for instance, this comes over as …he’s not ideal, for many of you he’s a good deal less than ideal, but he’s the bestest unideal guy you got.

    • it strikes me as a bit boring and lame.

      They conservatives should stop the gimmickly lines…………and try what Trudeau is doing. Get harper a new haircut, and tell him not to actually say anthing of substance. And then start groping for votes at the closest mosque which has been caught funding terrorist groups.

      works for the libs.

      • “They conservatives should stop the gimmickly lines…and tell him not to actually say anthing of substance.”

        And here I was always wondering how “substance” distinguishes Harper . Apparently conservatives have their own, entirely novel definition of the word.
        I think he should keep the helmet hair. It may be what makes those “gimmickly lines” seem so…substantial.

        • Lenny,

          the idea of substance is simple. When asked a question, answer it honestly regardless of how it will be received. One simply has to look at Harper’s comments about Israel. He knows that Muslims in Canada far outnumber Jewish Canadians, and yet he spoke truth to power about the situation. Justin Trudeau also knows a little basic math, but choose instead to mouth platitudes about israel’s right to self defence, while at the same time, visiting extremist mosques with ties to terrorism.

          If you want an analogy on substance between harper and trudeau, it’s quite simple.

          Harpers substance: He is the “man of steel,” to Trudeau’s “man of mist and fog”

          As I wrote before, when it comes to substance, Trudeau is so lacking in material that i if you look close enough, you can see right through him.

          • Given that you consider “substance” consist of “gimmicky lines”, I’m curious what bizarre usage of “truth to power” you’re employing.
            Given that Harper got 12% of the Muslim vote in the last election and doesn’t risk a single seat by further alienating them, my guess is “lies to the powerless”.
            Would that be about right?

          • Lenny notes:

            “Harper got 12% of the Muslim vote in the last election ”

            That’s right Lenny, a minority of Muslim’s supported Harper, even though Harper condemned the terrorists, and terrorist tactics.

            What should be a concern….is that 78% of Muslim’s in Canada disagreed with his stance against terrorism.

            Shouldn’t you be worried about that?

          • So, having been shown that your claim that Harper was bravely telling the truth and risking his electoral prospects is absolute BS, you’re now saying that what you really meant is that, while the rest of us were voting in an election with a whole host of different issues, Muslims were participating in a referendum on “Harper’s stance against terrorism”(a vote for any other party be a vote for terrorism)?

            You’re just a bottomless well of derp, arntcha?

          • Poor lenny….

            Now reduced to having arguments with himself, about things I didn’t write.

            Lenny, if you cannot follow an argument….then perhaps you shouldn’t be participating.

          • Pretending that you didn’t write something that is right there to see doesn’t seem particularly effective.

          • No, Lenny…

            Responding to my main point, with a reference to a follow up comment provided as an example of substance, is an indication of your inability to grasp a concept. Your deflection did not work.

  3. I think you meant:
    The Stephen Harper “framing” of the Conservatives

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