Friday, September 26, 2008

An avenue of attack

When both Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty are trying desperately to inoculate themselves against a particular type of criticism, I have to suspect they have reason to be worried. And so it is for what looks to be a glaring broken promise that's slipped under the radar - and which could eat into two of the Cons' most important perception advantages (on keeping promises and on economic management) if it's handled properly.

With that in mind, here's my suggestion as to how an ad or other message should be attacking the Cons for their federal spending increases.

Start with a screen shot of this promise from the Cons' 2006 platform (warning: PDF - see p. 17):
A Conservative government will:
Limit the future growth of federal spending on federal grant and contribution programs and by federal departments and agencies (other than National Defence and Indian Affairs) to the rate of inflation plus population growth.
Cut to a graph comparing the actual population plus inflation number to the actual spending growth under the Cons, showing the overall gap increasing from year to year. (The CTF's numbers of 7.5%, 6.9% and 8.4% annualized growth over the past three years would do the job nicely.) Include a voiceover about how the Cons have broken their promise more and more every single year, and perhaps a Coyne quote for emphasis.

Ask, "So what has Harper done with our money?" Cut to screen shots featuring something along the following lines:
- $150 million for a rail line to Jim Flaherty's riding which was "nowhere on (the province's) priority list";
- $1.25 billion to push infrastructure projects out of public hands;
- $800 million for the "most expensive environment program anywhere in the world by a wide margin".

Cut away to a shot of Harper with voiceover and text emphasizing that Harper has already broken his promise to handle your money responsibly, and can't be trusted now.

If there's a problem with the above, it's that it might be a bit late in the game to start pushing a counternarrative which really should have been developed sooner. But I have to figure that this type of ad - combined with the ongoing effort of the opposition parties to tie Harper's economic philosophy to Bushco's - would have a better chance than anything else of shifting opinions against Harper when it comes to money management. And that looks to be the key to cutting into the Cons' current strength in the polls.

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