POLITICAL CORNER: It’s time to abandon attack ads, Canada

Image courtesy of CTV News

Written by: Liam Wilson, Peak Associate

The 2019 Canadian federal election is still 15 months away, but already it seems that the major political parties are spinning up their campaign machines and starting to churn out everybody’s favourite piece of political propaganda: attack ads.

Attack ads have a rich history in North America. Over the years, they’ve showed up in print, television, and on the internet as political parties have fought hard to paint their opponents in as negative a light as possible. Infamously, some attack ads — such as the 1993 “Face Ad” which mocked Jean Chrétien’s facial paralysis — have been so poorly received by the Canadian public that they’ve completely backfired on the party that made them.

While it didn’t blow up as badly as the “Face Ad,” the Canadian Federal Conservative Party did wind up removing an attack ad last week. The ad depicted a lone black man walking over one of Trudeau’s tweets, through a broken fence, into Canada, with the large words, “Trudeau’s holier-than thou tweet causes migrant crisis — now he needs to fix what he started” emblazoned across the top of the image.

Naturally, the attack ad faced controversy from all sides of the political spectrum, and it wasn’t because of its egregious use of Photoshop. I mean, come on, featuring a black man hopping the border? Blaming a so-called “migrant crisis” on a tweet? The ad looks like something that would be produced jokingly by The Onion, not seriously by a federal political party.

It’s time for us to rise above all attack ads, Canada, not just the ones that stir up controversy. Our elections should be won based on integrity and merit, and the hate and intolerance spread by attack ads will only hold us back from that.