Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau recently warned that in the final days of the campaign, the Conservatives would "throw every nasty ad and every dirty trick in the book," claiming that's how the Tories came into office.
Actually, in the dying days of the 2006 election campaign, it was a desperate Liberal Party that unleashed a flurry of ominous over-the-top negative ads against the Tories, warning of a secret right-wing agenda and suggesting a Harper win could lead to "soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada."
But now, as polls suggest momentum is behind the Liberals, the Tories have unveiled their own set of attack ads, targeting their social conservative base by drumming up fears of a Trudeau government.
- Conservative ads aimed at Chinese, Punjabi voters claim Trudeau backs brothels, pot sales to kids
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Placed in local newspapers and flyers, the ads ask whether Trudeau shares their values. The ads state that a Liberal government would legalize marijuana, "making access easier for kids." They warn there would be legal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods and that prostitution would be legalized, "putting brothels in our communities."
"Those aren't our values either. Vote for your values," the ad states.
Message not new
The message isn't exactly new. Harper has said in the past that in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal, such as parts of the U.S. and Europe, the drug becomes "more readily available to children, more people become addicted."
Conservative candidate Jason Kenney recently said that Trudeau wants to force communities to establish legal drug-injection sites and that the Liberals support the legalization of prostitution and would force communities to accept brothels
Tory candidate Terence Young took it a step further at a recent all-candidates debate in Oakville, Ont., when he said a federal Liberal government would mandate "legally protected brothels with madams and all that goes with that because the Liberals have promised to legalize the selling of women in Canada."
"What family would invest their life savings in a home near a marijuana store, a brothel or a drug-injection site," Young said.
What's different with these ads is the target — Chinese and Punjabi-speaking voters who the Tories believe share their social conservative values. And they're being released in areas — Richmond and South Vancouver in B.C., and Richmond Hill and Markham in Ontario — that are considered key battleground ridings.
Harper, at a campaign stop in Brantford, Ont., defended the ads.
Dealing with 'facts,' Harper says
"You know, the other guys will claim that it's fear when all we're trying to do is to draw attention to facts. Facts that they're actually not willing to talk about," Harper said. "And they're running a campaign on three or four slogans, and it's time that Canadians, as we approach election day, look at the platforms and the direction for the country."
The ads seem to be part of the Tories' refocused message warning Canadians there will be negative consequences if Trudeau is elected. It's the same strategy in which Harper uses a cash register sound prop at every campaign stop, saying that a Trudeau government will suck the savings from average Canadians.
Trudeau, for his part, seems to be shrugging off the attacks. When asked about the ads at a campaign stop in Hamilton, he didn't respond to the specific allegations, instead saying they are examples of Harper's campaign tactics.
"I think we've seen over the course of this campaign, and indeed, over the course of Mr. Harper's government, that he never misses an opportunity to divide, to play up fear and division, and even to directly mislead Canadians. Canadians are tired of that," he said.
"I think it is up to Mr. Harper to explain why he's choosing to mislead Canadians."
How misleading are the ads? Trudeau is in favour of legalizing marijuana, though he argues that the current laws, and not his proposals calling for regulation of the drug, make access much easier for children. And he is also in favour of opening more supervised drug-injection sites like the one in Vancouver, but for the purpose of harm reduction.
As for brothels, the Conservatives have connected that to Trudeau's vote against the Tories' prostitution bill, legislation introduced after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down in a unanimous decision the previous law as unconstitutional. However, the Liberals have no policy regarding the legalization of prostitution, let alone brothels in communities.
"We won't have brothels in every corner," Liberal candidate Navdeep Bains said on CBC's Power & Politics with Rosemary Barton.
But the Tories are not the only party to have launched attack ads this campaign. The Liberals themselves have put out an ad to new Canadians suggesting that the Conservatives' Bill C-24 could give a politician the right to revoke their citizenship — failing to mention they would have to be convicted of terrorism or treason.
The NDP launched series of ads against Trudeau that accused the leader of being hostile to the auto and manufacturing sectors and slammed him for charging thousands of dollars of speaking fees for appearances at school boards and charities.
The Bloc Québécois released an ad last month showing a drop of oil morphing into a niqab, an attack on the New Democratic Party's position on allowing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.