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No attack ads here, say Liberals

(PoliticsWatch posted May 5, 2004) OTTAWA - A series of TV ads developed for the Liberal election campaign that suggest Conservative Leader Stephen Harper would make the poor pay for health care and would have sent Canadian troops to Iraq are not attack ads, according to Liberal MPs. 

"Those aren't attack ads," said Quebec Liberal MP Nick Discepola following today's Liberal caucus meeting. "They're words that Stephen Harper has used himself in the past to show his position."

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail reported that the Liberals have produced 11 TV ads that do not mention or feature Prime Minister Paul Martin, but focus entirely on Harper and comments he has made regarding a variety of issues. 

"All (ads) are accompanied by menacing and dramatic music," according to the Globe.

While the Liberals have not approved the use of any or all of the 11 ads, their consortium of ad agencies have created them just in case a scenario arises where they may have to be used, such as a drop in popularity. 

Conservative communications director Jim Armour says the Tories have no plans to roll out their own attack ads to counter a Liberal attack during an election campaign. 

"From a Quebec perspective, I don't think we're going to start using negative advertising," added Discepola. "It's never worked in the past."

He noted that the Liberals themselves have benefited from attack ads that backfired on their rivals, pointing to Kim Campbell's 1993 TV ad that featured a photo of Jean Chretien with a contorted face above a disparaging caption, implying he would not make a good PM because of his appearance, and a Reform Party ad in 1997 that blamed Canada's constitutional problems on Quebec prime ministers. 

"I don't think that's a strategy that's going to be implemented at all." 

Liberal MP Judy Longfield also defended the ads, saying, "These aren't our words. These are Stephen Harper's own words."

"When it comes down to casting a vote, Canadians are going to have to decide whether they really can trust or they know who the real Stephen Harper is," she said. 

"I don't think anyone knows the real Stephen Harper. He's a bit of a chameleon. He changes from day to day and that's the problem. Who is the real Stephen Harper? Is he this moderate who he's pretending to be now? Or his he the Stephen Harper who talked about firewalls or who talked about division within Canada?"

The Conservatives moved this week to better define their positions by giving candidates a party platform that the media is describing as "moderate." 

But based on Liberal MPs' comments, they plan to focus this election on Harper and not on any new platform. 

"I think it's a sign that they are very concerned about what the public perception is about their leader, Stephen Harper," said Longfield. "And I think that they're trying very desperately to tone down that and distance themselves from the very words of their leader from the past." 

"I think Mr. Harper's record speaks for itself," said Immigration Minister Judy Sgro. "I don't think we have to say a lot on it. I think ensuring that Canadians know the different things he has said or his party has said and what he stands for is all going to be a part of an election campaign.

"Good luck to them. As far as I'm concerned, they're still the Reform Party."

As for the Liberal party's platform, Discepola confirmed that it is currently not complete. 

"It's still a draft," he said, adding that it will be presented to the party's election platform committee tomorrow night. 

According to Discepola, the prime minister wants to roll out the platform within seven or eight days of the election call. 
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