Ontario's Progressive Conservatives have launched a couple of very different attack ads. Queen's Park analyst Robert Fisher looks at the ads and let's us know what he expects in the coming months. Listen to his full interview with Craig Norris of CBC's Kitchener-Waterloo by clicking the play button or read an edited and abridged transcript below.
What do you make of these ads?
It's all part of the pre-election air war. There's more to come. It's not the toughest I've ever seen. It's an attempt to link the Premier to two words: untrustworthy and corrupt. We've talked about a couple of trials underway, one in Sudbury and one in Toronto involving former senior Liberals. No verdict has been rendered. There has been no proven corruption but that won't stop the Conservative from pushing their corruption message.
Why is the party coming out with two different ads?
There's a softer tone to one of them. One of the ads has a very quick shot of him walking in the Toronto Gay Pride parade. The theme of that ad is the party can be a home for everyone. It's all about that battle to define Mr. Brown before the election.
Why are they using the tag line 'the people, not the insiders?'
Mr. Brown is saying that there are Liberals out there who have been rewarded for their loyalty to the party. Case in point — Mr. Brown wanted to know about the appointment of the new chair of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, a group I didn't know existed and has some connections back to Queen's Park. The government's answer said the appointment was not a case of patronage. But the woman's CV says loud and clear that she is the former chief of staff to the Minister of Agriculture. She has strong Liberal connections. Her relative is a former Liberal MPP and lobbyist. In Mr. Brown's view she is an insider — who may well be deserving of the appointment but it comes with one of those political aromas.
We're still waiting to hear Brown's platform. Do you think the party is being vague on purpose?
I think it is. We are very close to this election. For Brown to slip badly, who knows the lingering damage that might do. There have been flip flops and criticism of a very steep learning curve for him as leader but by-and-large he has been staying on message and that's where the party wants him.
What attack ads do you expect from the NDP and Liberals?
The NDP have been sending out little clips from question period. I'm sure some tough ads pointed at the Tories and Liberals are going to come out. Attack ads from the Liberals will come as well but right now they are spending their time and your money on selling their agenda. The most recent one had to do with $5.5 million on ads for the Fair Hydro Plan, a.k.a. those lower hydro rates. These ads are considered by the auditor general a pat on the back from the government, something the government said it would never do and brought in legislation then changed it to allow this. Despite the money spent on the campaign the government defends it as necessary to inform the people of Ontario.
Do you think those vicious, American-style attack ads could make their way here?
There have been negative ads before. People detest them but, sadly, they often work to change opinions. God help us if we go down the road the Americans are now on in their political advertising. It is unbelievable. They say it pays to advertise but, I would say, at what price?