2006 Liberal Party of Canada election ads

2006 Liberal Party of Canada election ads

In the 2006 federal election in Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada used attack ads against Conservative Party of Canada leader Stephen Harper. The Liberals, trailing in polls during the last weeks, resorted to strong and often questionable negative ads directed towards the Conservative party, by attempting to depict Harper as an extreme right-wing politician, though the advertisements did not prevent a Conservative victory.


The ads against Harper were similar to two previous Liberal ad series: In the Canadian federal election, 2000, the ads accused Canadian Alliance (Billed in the ads as "Reform Alliance") leader Stockwell Day having a "hidden agenda." In the 2004 election, the Liberals had run a variety of ads under the heading of, "Stephen Harper Said", using five quotes from his tenure as leader of the National Citizens Coalition, with a [http://www.stephenharpersaid.ca companion website] . These were later accompanied by an advertisement that used a variety of images and generalizations of policy to imply that Harper would make Canada like the United States.

The main targets of both series of ads were not those who were supporting the Canadian Alliance/Conservative Party, but undecided voters who were considering the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party (in 2000). Both elections, the Alliance/Tories polled high in the early part of the campaign and the ads were an attempt to make the race a "choice" between the Liberals and Day/Harper, hoping to "scare" NDP/PC into voting Liberals in order to prevent a potential Alliance/Tory government.

The Liberals made gains in the 2000 election at the expense of both the NDP and PC parties, pushing both of them to the minimum required for official party status. In 2004, the Liberals were able to curtail their losses and retain key ridings from the NDP, some by razor-thin margins, to remain as the largest party and thus form the government (though a minority).

While most of the advertisements aired by parties in the election had been considered fairly mild up to the break leaders took for the holidays, the Liberals were widely expected to release sharper ads. These came after the second debate, when the Conservatives' numbers were going up in the polls.

The ads

These 30 second attack ads were produced and aired by the Liberal Party. All featured a close-up picture of Stephen Harper with the sound of war drums beating. The ads focused on some comments from Harper's past and the Conservative platform. Most of these were denied by the Canadian public and media. Several articles, including one by Paul Wells of "Maclean's" magazine, indicated that the Liberals were grasping at straws, and that not all of the comments could be proven.

*"Like Stephen Harper, Mike Harris had a right wing agenda. Remember the Common Sense Revolution? Remember the environmental neglect, the shattered social programs, the crumbling schools and hospitals, the huge deficits? Yeah, that Common Sense Revolution. Do we really want to go down that road again?"

*"Who paid for Stephen Harper's rise to the head of the party? We don't know. He refuses to reveal his donors. What do you suppose he's hiding? We do know he's very popular with right wingers in the U.S. They have money, maybe they helped him. We just don't know. He just won't say."

*"Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper worked together to bring down the government. Lots of late night secret meetings. Apparently, they're quite a team. Which is great. Because if Harper wins this election? He'll have to work very, very closely with Duceppe. Unfortunately, their unity won't do much for Canada's unity."

* "This is what Stephen Harper told his American friends: 'Canada is content to become a second-tier socialist country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services, to mask its second-rate status.' When he said, 'You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it,' he wasn't kidding."

*"Stephen Harper spoke to a secret, ultra right-wing American think tank. In a Montreal hotel, off limits to press and public, he said, 'America, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.' No. We did not make that up. We're not allowed to make stuff up."

*"Stephen Harper's stand on public health care? '... Provinces have allowed private health care services in the past. Why should I care? Why should the Federal government care how they're managed?' Seriously, that's what he said. Well, Paul Martin cares very much, Mr. Harper. And so do Canadians."

*"Here's what Stephen Harper told some of his American pals about Canada's unemployed: 'Don't feel particularly bad for these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves. Not as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.' Not exactly the kind of compassion we're looking for in a Prime Minister, is it? A social safety net is a fundamental Canadian value, Mr. Harper."

*"Stephen Harper's view of Atlantic Canada? 'Unfortunately, many people in Atlantic Canada feel that it's only through government favours that there will be economic progress.'He called us 'A culture of defeat.'And he said: 'Atlantic Canada needs Quebec to stay in Canada because of our weak economy.' Maybe we should choose someone who actually loves Atlantic Canada." (This ad was often played after one of the previous ads in the Atlantic region).

*"From the "Washington Times", Dec. 2, 2005: 'Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the Western world. Harper is pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto and socially conservative. Bush's new best friend is the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader. A Harper victory will put a smile on George W. Bush's face.' Well, at least someone will be happy, eh?"

*"Stephen Harper has made a lot of promises to a lot of people. Apparently, he's made a few too many. Now he admits he'll have to either raise taxes, or run a deficit to pay for them all. Wow. He's not even elected yet. And he's already running a deficit."

*"Get a load of this. Stephen Harper once said: 'The Western ridings that the Liberals hold are dominated by either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada. People who live in ghettos.' We're not kidding. He actually said that."

The ads ended with a voice stating the Liberal campaign slogan, "Choose Your Canada".

An ad about abortion was also run late in the campaign. It claimed Harper was "against a woman's right to choose" and would not stop legislation criminalizing abortion. Fact|date=February 2007


The ad that created the biggest uproar was one that was not aired in English Canada. However, an English version of the ad was available on the Liberal Party webpage for a short time before being removed. The ad suggested Harper would put military personnel in Canadian cities "with guns":

*"Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up."

The ad was referring to a plan by Harper to station military personnel around cities, in case of natural disasters or other emergency situations. Paul Martin had claimed "That's one [ad] that was not played." He was later quoted on CBC as saying he personally approved all the ads.

A separate ad which alluded to the military plans, among other things, continued to be played in French amid the growing anger over the English ad. This spot was not done in the same style as the English series, but instead simply listed various items the Conservatives were for and against, such as military presence in cities, which, the Liberals believed, would turn off Quebec voters.


The "military" ad was seen in the general Canadian public as being over the top, and many pundits believe that it damaged the credibility of the other ads. It was widely criticized for its absurdity, in particular the sentence "we're not making this up; we're not allowed to make this stuff up". It also did not help that headlines and news shows featured the controversial ad prominently for several days afterwards. Several war veterans and members of the Canadian Forces were upset at the implication that they would be threatening to civil liberties.

Besides a blanket condemnation, the Conservatives responded that in the "American think tank" ads, Harper's statements were for comic effect, and that Harper had actually refuted the points raised in the "Washington Times" editorial in a letter to the paper.

For the next few days, Liberal leader Paul Martin was frequently questioned on the ads and forced to defend them in interviews, instead of making planned policy announcements. [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060112/elexn_martin_060112?s_name=election2006&no_ads=] . One Conservative ad used quotations from Liberal Members of Parliament Keith Martin and John McCallum expressing their dissatisfaction with the ads.

It is not agreed upon, though, whether the ads had a negative or any real effect on the Liberal's election results. One possible explanation for the ads' lack of impact may have been because Harper had defined himself and the platform to the media back in December 2005, making his party much more insulated to the Liberal attacks than in the 2004 federal election. After the election, Frank McKenna, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States and former Liberal Premier of New Brunswick, was critical of the Liberal's anti-American campaign rhetoric for potential harming bilateral relations, and suggested that Canadians did not want to be seen as gratuitously offensive [http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/03/02/mckenna0602.html] .

The controversy over the ads likely prevented the Liberals from making up ground near the end of the campaign. While the effect of the other ads may have been blunted somewhat by the "military" ad, Liberal numbers were already down in polls, and their momentum was rapidly shifting to the Conservatives. While the Conservatives won 124 seats and the election, the Liberals won 103, receiving the majority of seats in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.


Due the melodramatic nature of the ads, they became ripe for Internet parody and found their way into the satire of popular culture. Some were later reprinted in the "Globe and Mail" and "National Post" newspapers. The comedy show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" and "Royal Canadian Air Farce" also created a series of parodies of the attack ads [http://airfarce.com/seasons/season13/] . Even the American comedy "The Daily Show" ran its own parody of the ads, with anti-Canadian rhetoric.

Some of the more famous examples that were printed in the National Post were:

*"Stephen Harper has a dog. You know who else had a dog? Hitler. Adolf Hitler. That's who. Did Stephen Harper train his dog to attack racial minorities on command? We don't know. He's not saying."
*"Stephen Harper likes to wear black. You know who else wears black? Darth Vader. Do you really want Darth Vader running your country?"
*"In 1963, In Dallas, democratic president John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Where was four year old Stephen Harper? We Don't Know. He's not saying. We didn't make this up"
*"Stephen Harper wants to put a giant laser on the moon. He will use it to burn his initials into Greenland. We're not making this up, We're not allowed to make stuff up."

ee also

*1993 Chrétien attack ad
*Attack ad
*Negative campaigning

External links

* [http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060103/ELXN_liberal_attackads_060110/20060110/ Liberals release series of attack ads]
* [http://www.stephentaylor.ca/worst-attack-ad.wmv Stephen Taylor's parody of the ads]

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