At the moment Paul Martin Jr. is not fondly remembered by many Canadians and members of the Liberal Party of Canada. There is a litany of good reasons for this which do not yet bear repeating because for Liberals to hear them so soon after losing power, generally results in dark moods of contemplation of nasty ideas such as murder or suicide.
Having said that, the release today of the first RAT (Reform, Alliance, Tory) Party attack television ads against Stephane Dion, hearkens back to the disasterous attack ads against the RATs, ran by Martin's brilliant campaign organizers in the last Federal Election. It is worth remembering the result of those Martin attack ads: they changed nothing. Harper got his not quite razor-thin minority government and Martin, his merciful early retirement, both of which events would have happened without the ads. As a matter of fact, Canadians generally do not like attack ads, and particularly attack ads that are personal attacks. Canadians are too nice for such politics.
Bush's pal Steve Harper, who can be deeply obtuse most of the time, obviously didn't get the message. For today, his party launched attack ads against Stephan Dion. The RAT Party's intention apparently is to pay the big bucks and run them in the prime time of the Super Bowl game.
One ad focuses on Dion and the Liberals not dealing with emerging environment issues when they had a chance to do so, implying that Dion had all of the Chretien years to solve them. The other ad focuses on Dion's supposed lack of leadership skills. They include an excerpt of a testy exchange between Iggy, Dion and Ken Dryden during a Leadership campaign debate. The concluding statement of one ad urges Canadians 'not go back' to the Liberals. The concluding statment of the other is 'Stephane Dion is no Leader.' The ads convey the impression that the producer's intent, at least in part, was to emphasize Dion's French accent and his struggle with the english language. Both ads were personal attacks.
The ads have been launched by Calgary MP and new Secretary of State for Multiculturalism (believe it or not!), Jason Kenny, the rotund, cherubic little motor-mouth neocon zealot with the perpetual five o'clock shadow (that is an example of a personal attack - but unlike the Dion ads, it is fair).
In any event, this whole attack ad business is an interesting opening salvo in what promises to be a knock-em-down, drag-em-out pre-election slug-fest. I can't wait for the Grit attack ads focusing on Harper's heart-felt support for the Iraqi mission, his early rejection of any sensible environment policy and his flip-flop on oil income trusts, among others.
But one thing is for sure. Harper, getting into expensive attack ads at this early stage and with Dion so obviously in his cross-hairs, is running scared. In the forthcoming election, a loss or even another minority will not do. If that's the best he can muster, Bush may be longer in the saddle that his pal Steve.