The Current

Using family as fodder on the campaign trail has its perils

Conservative MP Mark Adler has included his father's haunting past into this election campaign by advertising himself as the son of a Holocaust survivor. He's not the first to rely on family ties in the pursuit of political victory. We look at why kith and kin can play a critical role on the campaign trail.
Conservative MP Mark Adler has raised eyebrows with campaign signs advertising him as the "son of [a] Holocaust survivor." But he's hardly the only candidate in this federal election to bring his family into the campaign as fodder. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

It was a claim made loudly on a Conservative candidate's campaign billboard.... until the ad was launched into the twittersphere, and controversy ensued

Mark Adler, who is seeking re-election in the Toronto riding of York Centre, had prominently billed himself as the son of a holocaust survivor. After the billboard claim came to light, that line ws removed from the sign. We requested a comment from Mark Adler and were sent a statement that reads in part: "I am proud of my family heritage, and will never forget the sacrifice of my forefathers who faced persecution simply because of their faith." 

Mark Adler is hardly the only politician to bring his family into the campaign... on either side of the border. Today's politicians don't seem to hesitate when it comes to bringing their families ties into the campaign spotlight -- whether to make a connection to an episode in history like the holocaust.... or burnish one's warm and fuzzy credentials as a family man or woman. 

But bringing up family on the campaign trail, comes with risks as well as potential rewards. 

To weigh in on this, we were joined by:

  • Vincent Raynauld is Canadian scholar who specializes in social media and election campaigns.  He is an assistant professor of communications at Emerson College in Boston.
  • Anna Esselment is a assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo specializing  in federal politics, election campaigns and political marketing.    She is in Waterloo.
  • Jonathan Kay is the Editor in Chief of the Walrus magazine. It was his tweets that got the twittersphere talking about that Mark Adler poster in recent days. He was in our Toronto studio.

What do you think? Is a politicians' family a window into their character or can it be a red herring in an election race?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Howard Goldenthal.