The federal Conservatives fired the first major volley in the 2019 election campaign Wednesday, unveiling a quintet of English-language television ads and one French-language ad that attack Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for betraying those who voted for him in 2015.
The five-pack of 30-second English television ads will run during television programs across the country, while the 30-second French-language spot will run in Quebec. The TV ads will complement the online advertising campaign the Conservatives have been running for months.
Conservative campaign spokesperson Brock Harrison declined to say how much the party would spend placing the ad on television networks other than to say it is a “multi-million dollar ad buy.”
The ads will run for the next three weeks.
Four of the English ads feature actors, portraying voters who say they feel betrayed or let down by Trudeau. The common denominator among all the voters in the ads is an admission that they voted for Trudeau in 2015 but now can no longer support him.
That type of voter — a so-called blue-red switcher — will be a key target for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives in the months leading up to election day on October 21. And it’s clear what the Conservatives think is important to that blue-red switcher: pocketbook issues.
WATCH: Liberal MPs say Trudeau’s personal brand remains a strong asset for their re-election chances.
But Liberal MPs say the prime minister’s personal brand will be as strong an asset now as they seek re-election this fall as it was when they got elected in 2015.
“Maybe stronger,” Liberal MP Bob Bratina said Wednesday. “People are watching him go through tough times and seeing how he handles himself. Times were fairly sunny early on (in 2015-2016). They’re tougher now. And he’s showing the toughness that he has. So I think it’s going to be better.”
While a future New Democrat or Green Party campaign might consider attacking Trudeau for broken promises on so-called progressive issues like electoral reform, pay equity, or reconciliation with Indigenous peoples or for failing to be more aggressive on climate change policies, Conservatives are signalling that they will attack the Liberal government for failing to live up to commitments that might be important for small-c conservative voter.
WATCH: This Conservative party TV ad, running for the next three weeks, attacks the Trudeau Liberals on “affordability” issues.
One ad, for example, slams Trudeau for promising in 2015 to balance the budget this year, a promise that the government admitted early in its mandate it would never keep. Another features a voter complaining about “affordability”— that, in her view, the price of gas and the price of food have risen.
But two of the ads also attack Trudeau over the scandal that emerged earlier this year that appears to have already dragged his poll numbers down: the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
WATCH: This Conservative TV ad reminds voters about the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
One features a still photo of Trump and U.S. President Donald Trump while a narrator speaks of “an administration rocked by chaos” in which the attorney general was fired and other senior advisors resigned. The narrator goes on to say “he” shut down investigations and threatened critics with lawsuits. The ad concludes, not surprisingly, by reminding the viewer that is Trudeau’s record, not Trump’s, this year.
All five of the English-language television ads end with the tagline “Justin Trudeau: Not as advertised.” The French-language ad, also critical of Trudeau, ends with a tagline which, in English, translates to “Quebecers deserve better.”
WATCH: The French-language attack ad placed by the Conservatives in Quebec finishes with the tag “Quebecers deserve better”.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party of Canada is continuing an advertising campaign it launched on March 4 that consists of radio spots purchased in markets in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, the four provinces where the Trudeau government imposed its own carbon tax this spring.
“While Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives want to make pollution free again, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team have a positive plan to protect a clean environment and keep growing the economy, and that will be an important choice in this year’s election campaign,” said Liberal Party spokesperson Braeden Caley.
LISTEN: The Liberal Party of Canada has been running radio spots, like this one, in four provinces touting their carbon-tax-and-rebate plan.
As for a television advertising campaign that would match or respond to the volley launched by the Conservatives, Caley said Canadians can expect to see something in the “coming weeks.”
And would the Liberals throw a punch at the Scheer the way Conservatives are throwing punches at Trudeau?
“One of the hallmarks of Justin Trudeau’s leadership has been a positive approach to politics,” Caeley said, noting that campaign advertising highlighting the different positions of competing parties should be expected, but “that does mean avoiding personal attacks.”