About those attack ads

I happen to like attack ads. The anti-Dion gambit, for example, was as effective as it was cruel, and it certainly beat the hell out of that sweater-vest campaign. So I won’t be joining the chorus of people who think these (or any other) ads will be the downfall of Canadian democracy. I think electing poo-tossing monkeys to do a circus routine every day in the House of Commons has pushed that along much further than any attack ad ever could.

That doesn’t mean I like these ads—the French ones, especially. If anything, they seem to show just how out of touch the Conservatives are with Quebec and Francophones in general.

Michael Ignatieff was out of the country for a long while, doing academic-y stuff: Who cares? So were Jacques Parizeau, Camille Laurin, Pierre Trudeau, and a whole bunch of others. Hell, most of Quebec’s old-school political intelligentsia has always treated France like a second home.

Michael Ignatieff has said ultra-federalist things in the past: Er, the Tories are aware the federal Liberals aren’t exactly seen as separatist enablers in the province, right? That an Anglo, Liberal party leader from Toronto who’s spent a good chunk of his life in England and the States is a federalist doesn’t exactly summon shock and horror. And it’s not like the Tories even stand to benefit from portraying federalism as a noxious idea; that’s the simplest way of telling the Bloc they can have Quebec whole if they want it. Moreover, if I had a bunch of former Reformers in my party, I’m not sure that’s a can I’d want to open up.

Michael Ignatieff speaks French with an accent “de France”: They can’t be serious. Nothing says, “I’m a Canadian Anglo” more loudly than obsessing over the distinction. The whole thing reminds me of the French-immersion kids I knew growing up who spoke Belinda Stronach-English, but insisted the reason us Francos couldn’t understand them was because they were being taught “Parisian” French. The reason we couldn’t understand them was because they couldn’t speak French. Ignatieff doesn’t speak with a “French” accent any more than Félix Leclerc sang with a Scottish one; and thanks to their ad, the Conservatives have officially joined him in that ultra-exclusive club reserved for those who couldn’t tell.

Perhaps the Conservatives should consider this, too, before trying so hard to paint Ignatieff as a snob: at least politically, Quebecers don’t appear to have much of a problem with snobs—Pauline Marois, Jean Chrétien, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Charest have all been pretty popular in their day. Besides, Stephen Harper doesn’t exactly radiate some sort of down-home, René Lévesque-esque charm.

What it all comes down to for me is this: Why do Conservatives insist on thinking they can win a culture war in a province where they’ve repeatedly shown they don’t know the culture?

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