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Ben Carr


April 30, 2013

[Editor's note: The following op-ed piece was written as a result of this video released attacking  the new leader of the Liberal Party Justin Trudeau as being in over his head.]


The recent release of political attack ads targeting Justin Trudeau should come as no surprise to Canadians. The Conservative Party has made a living in recent years by clobbering their opponents with commercials and advertisements aimed at discrediting every inch of their character. Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff both fell victim to the Tory attack machine. The Conservatives’ attack ads against the former Liberal Leaders were successful because they shaped the public’s view of both Dion and Ignatieff before they had the opportunity to make their own first impressions to the nation. The same will not be true of Justin Trudeau, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who grew up in the spotlight of Canadian politics and, as a result, has been known to millions of Canadians all his life.

The newest Tory ads attack Trudeau on his experiences prior to becoming Liberal Leader. After pointing out all of the things Stephen Harper has done for the economy while in office, the ad begins to list some of Trudeau’s former jobs in an attempt to portray him as inexperienced and ill-prepared for the job of prime minister. “He’s been a camp councillor, a white water rafting instructor, a Drama Teacher for two years… and now he thinks he can run Canada’s economy?” the narrator says in a condescending tone. There are several issues that need to be confronted here. Firstly, the ad is insulting to teachers and camp councillors across the country; it depreciates their value to society. Furthermore, it dismisses the essential leadership qualities that teachers and councilors acquire through their work, which by extension, are passed on to our kids. Teamwork, competitive spirit, organization and work ethic, to name a few, are all leadership qualities that will prove valuable later in political life.

Underlying the ads is an element of hypocrisy, as all politicians, we would hope, before coming to office, will have a multitude of life experiences in a variety of fields, including the Prime Minister himself. Stephen Harper once worked in the mail room at Imperial Oil. Does that make him unqualified to be prime minister? The fact that Justin Trudeau was a teacher is certainly not a bad thing, and suggesting that it should not be considered as valuable experience for a prime minister is a mistake on the Conservatives’part, the type that could come back to haunt them. In the background of the ad is a clip of Trudeau stripping down to an undershirt. Without context of course, this may cause a few people here and there to raise an eyebrow. When you find out however that Trudeau was participating in a fundraiser for the Liver Foundation of Canada, in which he raised nearly $3,000 for the cause, you may find yourself admiring his gesture of good will. The Conservatives seem disinterested in having any real dialogue with Trudeau over policy and the future of the country, preferring to attack his personality alone. The Prime Minister and others have been quick to dismiss Trudeau as soft on policy. If that is so, what better way to expose his weakness than to challenge his views against yours?

Several people have commented lately on the relationship between political attack ads and the massive anti-bullying campaign that is sweeping through this country. As a teacher, I can personally relate to the effect bullying can have on a student’s self-esteem and their overall mental health. In schools across this country, we are trying to teach kids that the use of verbal or physical abuse with the intention of intimidating somebody is not only wrong but can lead to disastrous outcomes far beyond what we care to imagine. These political attack ads send the message to our kids that it is okay to use verbal assaults against your opponents to diminish or discredit them. It teaches our kids that in order to get ahead in life, you need to roll up your sleeves and go for the jugular. These political ads are in complete contradiction with the lessons every one of us is hoping our kids will learn: it is not okay tobully, ever.

The old political adage “if you throw enough mud, some will stick” seems to have held true in Canada for the past few years, but is this about to change?

Canadians are fed up with the negativity that runs through the veins of our politicians, their parties, and our most valued political institutions. One would not have to spend more than 30 seconds in the House of Commons to realize that there is a deeply fractured relationship between our politicians and, at its roots, a genuine feeling of malice and disregard for one another.

 One of Justin Trudeau’s core commitments during the Liberal leadership campaign was that he would not resort to negativity. Not only does Trudeau appear to be genuinely committed to keeping that promise, as demonstrated by his behavior towards his Liberal opponents during the campaign, but he is also striking the right chords with an electorate tired of seeing their leaders spend more time attacking one another than actually engaging in honest discourse about how to move this country an even better place to live. People are not looking to be told why they should not for your opponent; they want to know why they should be voting for you.

Canadians will begin to sense that Justin Trudeau is an honest, decent person who truly wants to move this country forward. It is yet to be seen whether or not he can rise to the challenges of political leadership, and grow into a serious contender for prime minister, or if the Tory attack ads will work as well on him as they have in the past on others. We can only hope, for the sake of our faith in the system, that Justin Trudeau will take the high road and that the Conservatives will spend more time promoting the substance and merit of their own ideas.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.