On the attack

Now that Justin Trudeau has been elected leader of the Liberal Party, we know what will happen next. The Conservatives will mount a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign aimed at sending him into oblivion.

After all, that’s what they did to Michael Ignatieff. Remember that ad? It showed Ignatieff riding down an escalator looking like the deus ex machina figure in a Greek tragedy arriving to save the day. The voiceover pronounced, “He didn’t come back for you.” The Conservatives went after interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, too, in the months before he announced that he would not be a candidate for the full-time job. That ad proclaimed, “He couldn’t run a province. He can’t run Canada.”

The Conservatives began their messaging immediately following Trudeau’s selection as leader earlier today. Said the statement: “Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn’t have the judgment or experience to be prime minister.” I can hear the punchline in the negative ad now. It will be something like, “All he’s got is his name.”

To my mind, negative advertising diminishes politics.¬†Trudeau has said he’ll stay positive; his party won’t use negative ads. I’d like to think the ruling Conservatives could follow the same smart thinking. After all, negative advertising is just another form of bullying and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pronounced himself against bullying in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teenager who was raped, bullied and committed suicide to escape her tormentors.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously called The White House ¬†“a bully pulpit.” Any leadership position can be a bully pulpit. In such a place there should be no room for a bully.

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