OTTAWA – Mere hours after Justin Trudeau was elected Liberal leader, the first set of Conservative-funded attack ads hit the airwaves in an effort to discredit the 41-year-old’s experience.
Headlined with cursive script and sparkles, the ad claims Trudeau is “in way over his head,” showing old footage of the Liberal leader stripping off his shirt.
The footage comes from a 2011 fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation, where a lunch with Trudeau was auctioned off for $1,900 – an event covered by the Huffington Post.
Trudeau will get his first chance to respond to what he has called the Conservatives’ “negative, divisive politics” in the House of Commons on Monday as he starts his new job.
Throughout his leadership campaign, Trudeau has promised not to engage in the negative politics of the past, but has promised to respond to Conservative attacks.
He told a room on Sunday night packed full of Liberals that Canadians are looking to their party to rediscover its “sunny ways.”
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Last night in an interview with Global News’ Tom Clark moments after winning the Liberal leadership, Trudeau said he was ready for these kinds of attacks.
“This is what they do. They’re going to try to make people think that, you know, we can’t do better, the problems are too great,” he said. “Canadians are looking for a better, more positive alternative. I’m proud of the relentlessly positive campaign I ran, and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Political parties can spend as much money as they can legally raise on advertising, including attack ads, outside of an election cycle. National and riding advertising limits only kick in after the writ is dropped.
Conservative Minister James Moore, who attended the leadership announcement, wouldn’t say on Sunday when the attack ads would begin.
“To win the leadership of a national political party is a real achievement and hats off to Mr. Trudeau for having accomplished that. Today is his day. We have two and half years to contrast ourselves and we’ll be there,” he told Clark.
But it didn’t take that long.
While Trudeau was giving his acceptance speech, the Conservative press office sent out a statement, declaring: “Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn’t have the judgement or experience to be Prime Minister.”
But as the sun came up on Monday morning, it was clear that the “sunny ways” Trudeau pontificated on weren’t going to be followed by the Conservatives.
The ad questions Trudeau’s judgment rehashing old statements Trudeau made about Quebec and violent cultural practices.
It also quotes a 27-year-old Trudeau saying Quebecers are better than the rest of Canada on a CTV program. CTV posted a longer version of the interview on Monday, showing the 14-year-old clip in full context during a conversation about why Pierre Elliott Trudeau believed Quebec didn’t need special protections.
The attack ad aired on at least one local television station and is also the featured content for http://www.justinoverhishead.ca/ — a website that appears to be a clearing house of anti-Trudeau sentiment. The website is also soliciting donations.
Another YouTube video featuring the same theatrical performance by Trudeau directly contrasts the new Liberal leader with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Slow motion shots of Trudeau set to circus music follow a laundry list of Harper’s job numbers as a narrator questions Trudeau’s ability to run the economy because he has been a camp counsellor, rafting instructor, drama teacher and criticizes his House of Commons attendance record.
The Conservative Party wasn’t commenting on how much the ads cost, where they would air, how much money they hoped to raise or whether there would be more.
“We don’t comment on our media buy,” said party spokesman Fred DeLorey.
The attack tactic has proven fruitful for the Conservatives in the past. They were able to brand former Liberal leader Stephane Dion as “not a leader” and his successor Michael Ignatieff as “just visiting.”