Just for the record progressive voters really don’t care where Jason Kenney lived when he served in Harper’s government or whether he visited Alberta often enough or whether he’s using Alberta as a stepping stone in his quest for the Prime Minister’s office.
What progressives care about is Kenney’s track record in Ottawa and in Alberta.
Why is Ms Soapbox telling you this?
Because for a minute there she was worried that Alberta’s NDP might succumb to the lure of attack ads in the runup to the 2019 election. It’s understandable that they’d consider it given who they’re up against. Jason Kenney and the UCP have perfected the art of spinning a populist narrative loosely tethered to the facts.
Nevertheless, it would be a terrible mistake for Rachel Notley and the NDP to adopt a negative campaign strategy because progressive voters will not support a party that resorts to nasty attack ads complete with ugly photos, out of context quotes and ominous voice overs. They expect this from the UCP, but not from the NDP who they hold to a higher standard.
This puts the NDP in a tricky position. They need to walk a fine line between holding Kenney accountable for every blatant falsehood (also known as a lie) and misrepresentation he makes without crossing the line into vicious attack ads.
Attack ads have been around for a long time in Canadian politics. Pierre Elliot Trudeau attacked Joe Clark’s bumbling appearance and lack of experience, Kim Campbell attacked the way Jean Chretien talked in the “face ad” and Harper attacked Justin Trudeau’s experience and judgment win the “strip for charity” and “nice hair” ads.
Which brings us to the NDP’s Kenney’s Playbook ad. It’s a 36 second cartoon set in a locker room where the coach tells Kenney he’ll win if he keeps quiet about paying for the $700 million tax giveaway to the rich by cutting healthcare and education and about his position on a woman’s right to choose. The UCP characterized the ad as a heinous slur and an act of desperation, however everything in the ad said about Kenney was accurate.
Kenney says he’ll bring back the 10% flat tax, this creates a $700 million shortfall in revenue that can only be made up through cuts to public services. Kenney’s anti-abortion stance has been crystal clear since his university days when he declared himself to be an anti-abortion activist.
The Kenney Playbook ad is not an attack ad, it’s an ad holding Kenney accountable in a humourous way.
However, there is one thing the ad got wrong, not about Kenney but about Albertans. It said Kenney was new here and created the impression Albertans don’t know him.
This is incorrect.
Albertans know Kenney based on his track record as a politician with the federal and political governments. They know:
- He’s hypocritical. He is attacking the extension of “unfair equalization rules” which were designed by his own Conservative government and which he supported as a federal MP.
- He lacks compassion. He cut health benefits to refugees and detained children of asylum seekers behind razor-wire fences, guards, surveillance cameras and rooms with barred windows.
- He’s critical of experts who disagree with him, attacking them as “academic elites”. Kenney says Alberta’s economy suffered from the implementation of the carbon tax, but the economist Andrew Leach says since Alberta expanded carbon pricing it’s had the fastest growing economy in Canada (Leach also said Kenney “made stuff up about the regressive impacts [of carbon pricing] on low income Albertans” when Kenney testified at the federal Finance committee).
- He doesn’t care about social issues, characterizing policies like $25/day daycare and a $15/hour minimum wage as fiscal extravagance.
- He’s inconsistent. He said he’s tough on crime but refused to vote in favour of more funding for rural policing.
- He opposes a woman’s right to choose and gay-straight alliances in schools, treating them as snowflake social policies that violate…what…God’s will?
- He’s dishonest, suggesting his top priority is to balance the budget without admitting he voted for six deficit budgets between 2008 and 2013 when he was a federal MP.
The NDP don’t need to resort to attack ads. They can create a balanced ad campaign with ads that hold Kenney to account and ads setting out the NDP’s achievements and forward-looking vision. If they include some humourous ads like Notley dancing at Pride while Kenney promises to end the “War on Fun” (?) their ad campaign will be head and shoulders above anything the UCP will come up with.
And the progressives will reward them with a second term in office.