Canadian Government Ad Promotes Militarized Police State
Political strategists who expected the election race to turn nasty in the New Year warned that a negative campaign has the potential to backfire on a party. And that's exactly what may have happened in the case of the Liberals.
The Liberals have been chasing their own tails in the attempt to control the fallout from an attack ad that mistakenly made it to the party's web site earlier this week and raised rancour among Canadians.
The ad claims Harper would put soldiers in Canadian cities and suggested Canada could become a police state under his leadership.
The issue just won't seem to go away, and has dogged Liberal Leader Paul Martin as he attempts to make policy announcements and regain some momentum from the Tories who now lead by about 12 points in the polls.
Even as he tried to roll out a promise of $180 million in new funding for research and development, Martin was facing question after question about the withdrawn television ad.
The reality may have set in for Martin.
"We've obviously got a lot of work to make sure that in fact we come back with the government again," Martin said at a rally in Guelph, Ont. Thursday night.
The Liberals let fly earlier in the week with 12 ads that slammed Harper's policies. All except the military themed ad have made it to the airwaves. A variation of the military ad has continued to run in Quebec.
Martin has defended the ads, and in a Thursday interview with CTV's Canada AM he said he personally approved every one of them.
But Liberal cabinet minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said something altogether different.
"It had not, as I understand it, had not been approved by the prime minister," McLellan said of the military ad, dubbed by some as "Apocalypse Canada," for its ominous tone.
Then Keith Martin, the Liberal junior defence minister and MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, piped in, lambasting whoever sent out the ad in a package that went out to media outlets as well as being posted on the party's website.
"Some idiot attached that ad that we had rejected into the group that we sent out," Keith Martin said. His riding includes CFB Esquimalt, the headquarters of Canada's Pacific naval fleet.
"What happened was we commissioned 12 ads, and 11 of those ads were approved by the party. One was not," he said Friday on Canada AM. "But unfortunately that ad was attached to those 11 that were released and we were horrified when that happened, because that ad was misconstrued by the military."
He added: "The intent was to show the difference between our Liberal platform on the military which is modern and affordable, versus the Conservatives' plan which an old, obsolete plan that is unaffordable."
Veterans Affairs Minister John McCallum, who once held the defence portfolio, said the ad was a bad choice.
"I clearly think that the soldier ad was a mistake as a former defence minister," McCallum told reporters.
In the same breath McCallum defended the other 11 ads, and came closer to conceding a Conservative victory than any other MP has done so far.
"I think that as the likelihood of a prime minister Harper increases, Canadians are exposed to his core beliefs reflected in his own words," McCallum said.
Analysts and journalists claim the withdrawn ad, though it may have never been intended for release, has still hurt the credibility of the 11 other advertisements. They dealt with everything from Harper's policies on health care to U.S. relations.
"They say the ads are still out there and they believe they may help, but other people say the credibility of all the ads has probably been very badly damaged by that one ad that was such a mistake," said Craig Oliver, CTV's Chief Political Correspondent.