12.08.2014 03:36 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: they’re disgusting, but they’re working

Political truths aren’t obscure.  Most of the time, they’re right out in the open, for all to see.

Turn on your TV – or your radio, or your PC – and you will see one of the principal reasons why Stephen Harper is competitive, again.  Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, your tax dollars are being deployed to broadcast the Conservative Party’s ubiquitous “Economic Action Plan” ads.

There’s no accounting for what the latest spate of ads cost, naturally.  But, to date, it is known that more than $100 million in public funds have been blown on the Action Plan’s five-year bacchanal of partisan self-promotion.

The ads do not reference the Conservative Party’s name, Tories will say.  But the ads also do not reference anything that is real, either.  The latest spate promote a family-focused tax package that hasn’t even passed Parliament yet. And when you see them, you know that tagging them with a chirpy “vote Conservative” closing line would be almost redundant.

To make matters appreciably worse, the Economic Action Plan ads are not the only such abuse. Lately, untold fortunes have been spent on a series of Health Canada anti-marijuana ads.  “The science is clear. Marijuana use equals health risks,” the ads proclaim, because none of us apparently already knew that regularly inhaling any kind of smoke is inadvisable.  All that is missing from the Health Canada agitprop is another kind of tagline: “Don’t vote for Justin Trudeau, because he wants to make it easier for your kids to get drugs.”

Some will say that they are not affected by such advertising.  But the undeniable truth is this: big ad campaigns work. That’s why corporations and governments do them – because, if done well, they reliably move public opinion.

Thus, the other truth, referenced off the top: Stephen Harper, whose political obituary has been written many times since Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader, is decidedly not dead.  And, therefore, the people who are paid to track such things have observed diminutive – but significant – shifts in public opinion.   Stephen Harper, once a political goner, is back in the hunt.

That Ipsos poll released in the middle of last week, for example:  it showed the Conservatives and the Liberals tied, nationally.  As with other polls, the Ipsos survey – conducted over three weeks, and involving more than 8,000 Canadians – found that the Liberals have been slipping, somewhat, and the Conservatives have been edging up, somewhat.

A Nanos poll released on the same day, meanwhile, proclaimed that Stephen Harper has achieved a twelve-month high on the key question of who Canadians prefer as Prime Minister. Nanos found that 33 per cent selected Harper, while  29 and 20 per cent favoured Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, respectively. Three months ago, on the same question, Trudeau had been ahead of Harper by six points.

There are other reasons that explain why Harper is doing well, of course.

His decision to deploy our Armed Forces in the international effort against ISIS is very popular with Canadians.  The NDP and the Liberals have been preoccupied with two unseemly Parliament Hill sexual harassment cases for weeks, with no end in sight.  The Canadian economy is heading into a “broadening recovery,” said the Bank of Canada’s governor, coincidentally on the very same day Ipsos and Nanos released their polling.

When examining political cause-and-effect, it is never just one thing that accounts for big shifts in political fortunes.  It’s a lot of things.

But, in Canada, if there is a single factor that accounts for the spring in Stephen Harper’s step, it is the repellent and revolting orgy of pro-Conservative advertising, funded by us, the taxpayers.

And it is all right there in the open, for all to see.


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    davie says:

    …let me add that USA advertising can help as well. USA is gung ho on the ISIS attacks and on the anti Russia stuff that NATO is being used for, so the present Canadian government’s advertising is reinforced …by “world opinion.”

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    Ridiculosity says:

    Harper & Company call them “Economic Action Plan ads”.

    I call them what they are: unmitigated propaganda.

    Paid for by Canadian taxpayers since 2009.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Quite true. I was all lathered up in 1982 over the patriation ads of the Trudeau government. My heart and head were definitely with the Gang of Eight. Ah, memories.

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      Elisabeth Lindsay says:

      Correction, Ridiculosity. Paid for by Canadian taxpayers since forever.

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    Brachina says:

    Its not just that, you have positive ads payer for by government, but that also frees up the massive amount of cash that Tories themselves have for negative ads. This is one of the reasons why we will not be having an earily election, along with the hope that Trudeau will continue to have gaffes.

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    MississaugaPeter says:

    It is ridiculous that the Conservatives are allowed to do this. But the federal Liberals did it before him. Mind you, according to McGuinty, they are doing it 2 1/2 times the amount Paul Martin did.


    And even though I for one was impressed with McGuinty in actually doing something about it after the ridiculous amount that Harris and Eves did, even he was resistant to close one last loophole.


    Warren, it is an affront to democracy that this is tolerated. It is even a greater travesty in this day and age with twitter and social media that the government that is doing this is not humiliated for it. But it is a sign of the times. The newspapers and television stations will complain a bit, but not too hard, for fear that it will hinder their access to the pot.

    Why do you think that Hazel was reelected year after year? The only newspaper in town (6th largest city in the country and has no daily – pathetic) is run once/twice a week (no one knows for sure, except that it does comes once a week with 600 grams or 1.3 pounds of flyers) and would never say anything for fear of losing out on the millions of dollars of city advertising dollars. Incumbents never, never lose here.

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    Peter says:

    Ok, let’s see if I have this straight. His foreign policy is popular, the economy is promising and the Opposition has been diverted by sordid in-fighting. But’s it’s all because of the “revolting orgy” of his advertising? Not fair!!!

    2006…2008…2011…???? How many more before the Opposition clues in that bogey-man stories about Harper won’t cut it?

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      IMHO, Harper has taken one hell of a deadly risk with Operation Iraq. I worry for the people in Calgary. Hopefully, municipal security has exploded just in case the awful, awful, happens (to quote Reagan).

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      Ron says:

      Promising economy eh ? With the price of oil tanking (pun, sorry), and the TSX shedding hundreds of points, all it tells me is
      Harper has no control over what happens with the economy. Never has. All bullshit.

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        Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        You are sounding like you are happy about this Ron?

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        Peter says:

        I didn’t say it, Ron, the Bank of Canada did. The larger point is that Trudeau is well-paced to beat a tired, not-overly-popular government, but he’s not likely to do it by simply running an “I’m not Harper” campaign directed at people like you who hated Harper from the get-go and wouldn’t vote for him to save their mothers. Of late, he fumbled foreign policy in a smart-ass way that didn’t impress, got mired in sordid in-fighting with the NDP and came out for a drug policy most people don’t care about. His risk is that many electors will be unable to envisage him performing credibly at a NATO or G7 meeting or dealing with an economic crisis. If that happens, they may vote for Harper, not because they love him, but because they figure he’s the least likely to screw up and run the ship aground. This isn’t the 70’s and there isn’t a big appetite for “creative government” out there.

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          Gayle says:

          I am pretty sure Trudeau does not want to defeat Harper next time around. I am sure he will consider a conservative minority, with an LPC opposition, a victory. That would be a best case scenario for Trudeau.

          Going from a handful of MP’s to majority government is a recipe for disaster.

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            MississaugaPeter says:

            Playing for 2019? Give your head a shake Gayle.

            If Trudeau does not win next year, there will not be a second chance. He has pissed off too many of the old Liberals that there is no way in hell he and his gang will get a second chance. Many have stood quietly accepting his treatment of senators and nominations on the premise that it was best not to show infighting and because of a hope that he will turn the whole thing around in 2015.

            There are other Liberal leaders out there that were more qualified than Trudeau to lead, but stepped aside to let him take a run. A loss will result in those folks coming forward.

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            Gayle says:

            Keep dreaming those dreams.

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          Ron says:

          Pot meet kettle.

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      Gayle says:

      2006 – campaign overspending and a suspiciously timed RCMP investigation
      2008 – unethical reporting by a future senator
      2011 – robocalls
      2015 = ???

      So I would agree that is is not ALL due to the misappropriation of tax dollars to advertise their various campaigns, though 100 million spent on such advertising since 2006 no doubt helped. Though I am mildly amused by the fact you trivialize this expenditure. I have always thought that if the 2006 conservative voters actually wanted what Harper was selling, they never would have voted for him again in 2008. It is cute the way conservatives pretend to have all these ethical principles and then discard them all when it comes to defending their party of choice.

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        Peter says:

        I live to amuse you, Gayle. But you’re right, that is all scandalous. In the next election, the Liberals and NDP should definitely focus on rehashing Con perfidies in the last three elections and persuading the electorate they never would have voted for him if they had understood his tricky machinations properly. Somebody has to stop that guy, even retroactively.

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          Gayle says:

          You need to get out more, if amusing me is your goal in life.

          Yet again, you claim I am making arguments I am not. Obviously the LPC will have to do more than point out Harper is a fraud. Most Canadians already know that anyway.

          Just pointing out your original comment suggested Harper was elected on his platform, which may have played some role in 2011 (though not enough to get him elected without some rule breaking and RCMP assistance), but since then he’s been relying on dirty tricks all the way. Which leads us right back to the point of this blog posting..

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            Peter says:

            Where did I make any reference to Harper’s platform(s)?

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            Gayle says:

            You didn’t. Your comment suggests that Harper was elected on merit and not because of the way he campaigns, including the misappropriation of tax dollars to advertise his platform.

            None of which has anything to do with the point being made, which is that Kinsella is right, and you, well, aren’t.

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            Peter says:

            Your comment suggests that Harper was elected on merit and not because of the way he campaigns

            Actually, I didn’t do that either, I was referring to his recent jump in the polls Warren wrote about. But what a strange, strange comment to make, especially after eight years, three elections and several Opposition leaders. You really must have very little confidence in electoral democracy.

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    graham watt says:

    A Tragic Tearing Apart of Ourselves
    Stephen Harper has turned Canada (never perfect, but a pretty good country) into a 3000-mile long cacaphonous landfill crawling with the verbal garbage of once-reasonable people at each others throats. East against West, West against East, North against South, oil against air, Christians against Muslims, Jews against Jews with Israel’s Harper-blessed ideological holiness and Canada’s mulish inability to even squeak of any atrocious, hauntingly genocidal behavior.
    First Nations peoples’ children, raped daily and to date murdered in the thousands with no hope of any inquiry.
    Jails fill up like grain bins, longer sentences, solitary confinement being a macabre new twist on punishment where death by suicide can relieve crowding. And all the while increasingly-disaffected Canadian people thinklessly pay for millions upon millions of their own tax dollars being pumped into a North Korean style advertising ploy; “There there, see how we take care of you”.
    All of these trashy, vote-sucking Tory Ponzi schemes are adorned patronizingly with faux patriotism while elderly war veterans, alzheimered, legless, confused, their veteran centres closed, are thrown away for the vote-catching of Canadians of Ukranian descent, while thousands of Syrian children in detention camps lie like eggs in a candling exercise waiting to be strained through ideological filters so fine perhaps just 450 will make it to a now stingy, heartless Canada. Alas, they were born into the wrong catechism.
    And alas again, the Harper propaganda dietary needs come endorsed by their American Republican Party tutors, experienced in the delivery of swill-laced hatred, drizzled with ginger and fed to us daily. When will we wake up to the tragic tearing apart of ourselves? Stephen Harper’s ideological contagion has brought us a plague of our own. But sewing hatred has its cost and in 2015 hope which spreads quicker than hate, is free.

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      MississaugaPeter says:

      Yah, Americans in 2008 (after 8 years of government for the rich) thought they were getting CHANGE like you are describing for 2015.

      What they got is a black president who has done nothing to help blacks.

      “If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime” according to a U.N. study last year.


      What they got is a black president that the 1% are richer today then they were when he was elected.

      As I mentioned above, in this day and age, with social media and more available communication between voters, the choices and the people we elect claiming CHANGE, are no better than the ones they replaced.

      I initially admired McGuinty, but then he lied. Initially I was not impressed with Chrétien, since he lied to get elected (promised to scrap GST), but his management of the country by paying down the debt and not buckling down to the fear mongering of the banks made him a great one.

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    the salamander says:

    .. Whew .. ! Graham Watt is certainly warming to the task ! !
    Hopefully he’ll continue re the Kinsella theme & warnings
    Unfortunately, the list of the Harper era failures & travesties grows daily
    We have a long long trail to find our way back to democratic reality

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    Jnap says:

    Fear mongering is another of this federal governments tricks…. we must fear terrorists. We must fear anyone who would make it harder to have our own rifles, even semi automatic ones. We must fear environmentalists and charities. we must fear taxes. we must fear change of government. it is all brainwashing to make the public afraid, and that is manipulation of a cruel type.

    By repeating the words “Harper government” often enough, it comes to mean the same as Canadian government, so that ads for programs “brought to you by the Government of Canada” are translated as largess from the Harper Government. it is another form of brainwashing and quite blatant propaganda. i agree that it is disgusting. And Fear-mongering is disgusting too.

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    jeff316 says:

    My favourite is the radio ad about income splitting and transfers to families with kids, that ends with a very hurried: “measures subject to parliamentary approval.”

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    Windsurfer says:

    When you get right down to it, Orwell would be clapping from his grave over the way Canadian minds have become malleable chattel.

    Huxley too, with his masses’ demanding their Soma, was ahead of his time.

    Seems like society is cooked when the masses lap up the propaganda paid for with their own money.

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    Jerry says:

    I’ve been calling it ActionPlan Adscam for about 4 years now, because it makes Adscam look like chump change, and the other difference is this the Conservative Party of Canada itself pillaging the public purse rather than a few inside hack Liberals.
    We also pay part of Harper’s attack ads on Trudeau, the cost of which I think the Liberals should ad up and put in an ad of their own a la it costs the Canadian taxpayers X amount to promote hatred for the Stephen Harper. Then of course there is all the big oil advertising and tax subsidies to the billionaires who run those corporations. Harper is a pathetic fraud and has made his own bed of nails in history.

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    Just In Troo D'Oh!! says:

    Liberals just mad that the honorable Conservative party learned how to play their game better. Haters gonna hate.

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      Patrick says:

      Well that justifies it then. Thanks for pointing that out.

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    patrick says:

    In a democratic society shouldn’t all parties have access to an equal source of funds for propaganda purposes? If the reigning party has access to public funds, shouldn’t all our elected officials have access to public funds for the same purpose? Does it benefit democracy for the party in power to have such an upper hand in a media driven world? I feel the same way about the senate. If it exists, and continues to exist, and is supposed to be the chamber of sober second thought shouldn’t the appointments be a reflection of parliament itself? So you can’t stock the chamber with like minded individuals of the current party in power?

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      davie says:

      Hey…a chance to push out before the adults a hobby horse of mine!
      Suppose we ban any donations at all to any candidate or political party.
      People who want to donate to democracy in our Canada can donate (with those tax perks included) to a Democracy Fund.
      The Democracy Fund will be an independent entity that will then apportion money to parties and candidates for campaign spending. Parties will receive money according to the number of candidates the party is running (or a similar formula) so that all parties and their ideas are put forward in a roughly equal manner.

      Along with this we want stricter regulations on what a government can spend on public information campaigns.

      Once we get that in place, we will see a little different discourse during election campaigns.

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        patrick says:

        I agree with the principle. The issue would be threshold: at what percentage, proportion does a party get a portion of the cash. I’d say you have to elect someone first, or, perhaps some level of significant representation. Just forming a party isn’t enough, it would also demand national representation, a certain percentage of the vote and the will of the people in terms of participation. The flux in power centres would be constant and rather disturbing to the elites.

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      JH says:

      That’s a good suggestion federally and provincially. Only thing is, I don’t think past NDP or Liberal governments would have agreed to it, nor I doubt will present day governments. Would have to be all or none I would think. And then there’s the question of what about municiple parties, where they exist in certain cities. Could get pricy.

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    MF says:

    The income splitting resonates with many families. In my opinion, it is the primary reason for the upswing. Trudeau needs to respond with a plan that does not just benefit those who use daycares. Statements like Mulcair’s “another BMW in the driveway” are not helpful.

    Will merger of the Libs and NDP ever happen?

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      Jackal says:

      The NDP and Liberals have completely different cultures so they will never merge on equal terms. It is possible that if one of them gets totally smashed to bits then maybe the other party will absorb them in the way that the Reformers swallowed up the corpse of the Progressive Conservative Party, but as long as the Libs and NDP are roughly equal in strength I cannot imagine them joining.

      Besides, we’re lucky not to have a two party system like the United States. I know it sucks when vote splitting lets Harper win with less than half the votes cast but there are other ways to avoid that, like proportional representation.

      When politicians know that their followers might switch to another party it makes them slightly more accountable.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Watching Justin’s numbers dip suggests the following: the campaign won’t be about Justin the change agent. Not anymore.

    Rather, it will be all about the negative corrolation between Stephen and the concept of change. In English, have you had enough of Harper, Yes or No???

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    Tanya H. says:

    Cutting Out The Rot

    “…a war of attrition in quicksand. Can any faction prevail?” – Clausewitz

    QUEBEC – Former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust. Auditors submitted $700 000+ in improper expenses were claimed. Her trial heard the money was allegedly spent on gifts, trips, parties, meals and skiing and golf lessons. A Quebec judge previously ruled against the idea the accused benefited from royal immunity.

    Evidently, trying to usurp the symbolic executive is in Vogue this year. Quebecois filmmakers have released God Save Justin Trudeau. The Dauphin is among us. Rule by decree is the order of the day. Trudeau purged the Liberal Senate who have tried to meekly regroup as senate liberals. Trudeau’s “open” non-open nomination process rolls on. The acclamation of Andrew Leslie erupted into melee. Police intervened to evict pro-democracy protestors a la Hong Kong. The so-called MP sex scandal saw Trudeau purging 7% of his MPs after punishing nights of debauchery.

    The rot is widespread. Senate conservative Mike Duffy was charged with 31 offenses including fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Senate conservative Patrick Brazeau was expelled from the Conservative caucus following his Feb. 2013 arrest for domestic assault and sexual assault. Brazeau is currently employed as day manager of an Ottawa strip club called the BareFax. One somehow feels this is metaphor for Conservative rule. Shake it baby, shake it for Stephen.

    One of the most shocking scandals of 2014 implicated the darlings of the NDP. The Portland Hotel Society, ostensibly the vanguard of housing and homeless advocates, was caught out in a financial scandal. Despite being tasked with helping the poorest of the poor, two scanty audits (the society would/could not produce expense records beyond pocket litter) revealed a “let them eat cake” philosophy. PHS executive director Mark Townsend was discovered to have charged $470 000 over 3 years on the society’s platinum card. Elizabeth Evans, co-executive director, charged another $140 000. Two other key executives added $260 000.

    A $3000 dollar trip to Disneyland that included NDP MLA Jenny Kwan was discovered. Ms. Kwan during an adequately tearful press conference assured the media she had been duped and “was assured at the time by my former partner that he paid out of his pocket for the family portion of the travel expenses.” Kwan vowed to repay nearly $ 30 000 for this and other travel.

    There were $6000 river cruises down the Danube for a “PHS director.” (This represents about the yearly average income of a Downtown Eastside resident.) $550/night hotel rooms in Austria. £478/night hotels in U.K. – not including £35 for flowers. Nights at the Plaza Hotel in New York City that bills itself as the “standard of luxury.” $50/day for “home office” in the stylishly gentrified 2 million dollar residence owned by Townsend and Evans. $9 000 on “spa services. $12 000 in “limousines.” KPMG found 764 restaurant charges totaling $69 000 including Vancouver’s high-end Shangri-La and nine visits to Chambar, a Gastown fine eatery. A mere two visits Hawksworth Restaurant cost $887. Mind, this is taxpayer money earmarked for the poorest of the poor. Evidently, all animals are created equal but some more equal than others.

    The terrible thing about all this is that is occurs against a backdrop of homelessness, child poverty, and bleak ghettos. Twenty percent youth unemployment. A real unemployment number somewhere in the double digits. Massive hemorrhaging of jobs via outsourcing to more Gulag-like regions. Massive hemorrhaging of capital via the black markets (e.g. cocaine) remittances and offshore bank accounts. The marginalization of Canadian workers via schemes like the temporary foreign worker program. Etc.

    Marie Antoinette as the ghost of rotten regimes past beckons Canadian princelings to stop the rot – lest it consume them en masse.

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