Conservatives launch radio ad campaign, taking on Trudeau over carbon tax

Radio spots aimed at the 'carbon tax' are the first paid ads from any party to appear on legacy media platforms since Pierre Poilievre was elected leader of the Conservatives last September. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The federal Conservative party, flush with cash from a record haul in the fourth quarter of 2022, is launching a radio ad campaign in Atlantic Canada on Monday in which party leader Pierre Poilievre takes aim at the Trudeau government’s carbon tax.

The 30-second English-language radio spot, provided to Global News, will also air later in northern Ontario and in northern B.C. A French-language radio spot has also been produced on the same topic. A party source declined to say how much money it will spend purchasing time on radio stations other than to say it’s “a significant buy.”

While all parties and party leaders have been busy over the last several months on their own social media channels pushing their messages, the Conservative radio spots are the first paid ads from any party to appear on legacy media platforms since Poilievre was elected leader of the Conservatives last September.

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The English-language version of the ad is voiced by Poilievre himself and the ad’s script targets what the Conservatives call “the costly coalition of the NDP and the Liberals” and the planned increase in the federal government’s so-called price on carbon pollution, a price which its political opponents call “the carbon tax.”

Atlantic Canadians, more than those in other provinces, rely on oil to heat their homes. The push from the federal Conservatives lines up with a similar message being pushed by the Progressive Conservative government in Nova Scotia. “A carbon tax will not help the planet and it will hurt Nova Scotians,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said last fall.

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The Liberals, not the NDP, are the Conservative’s chief opponents in Atlantic Canada but in northern Ontario and northern B.C., Conservatives may look to be unseating New Democrat MPs like Charlie Angus in Timmins—James Bay or Taylor Bachrach in Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

The Conservatives hold eight of the 32 seats in the four Atlantic Canada provinces. The NDP hold none. The Liberals hold 24. When Stephen Harper won his majority in 2011, the Conservatives won 12 seats in Atlantic Canada. The Poilievre Conservatives will likely want to match or exceed that in order to form government in the next general election.

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In the nine Ontario ridings north of the line running from North Bay through Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie, the Liberals hold six, the NDP two and the Conservatives one. In the three northernmost ridings in B.C., the Conservatives hold two and the NDP’s Bachrach holds the other.

Ever since Poilievre took over as leader, Conservatives have been attacking what he and his MPs call the “Liberal-NDP coalition” even though there is no coalition in the technical Parliamentary sense. But last year, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Prime Justin Trudeau did sign what they called a Supply-and-Confidence Agreement in which the NDP agreed to support the minority Liberals on any confidence votes until June 2025 and, in return, the governing Liberals promised to take action on certain priorities identified by the NDP, including on housing, universal pharmacare, and universal dental care.

On Facebook, current paid advertising by the Conservatives has focused on attacking the Trudeau Liberals on crime and bail reform; advocating against Bill C-11 and for freedom of expression; making appeals for funds for election readiness; as well as attacking the carbon tax.

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The Conservatives can well afford almost any ad campaign they choose. In the fourth quarter of 2022, the party set an all-time record for fundraising by any party in a non-election quarter, raising $9.7 million in the three-month period ending Dec. 31. While federal law limits the amount parties can spend on political advertising during an election and for the period just ahead of a fixed-date election, parties are free to spend as much as they want on advertising outside of an election period.

No other party is believed to have purchased paid advertising on television, radio, in newspapers, or in other traditional media outlets. All parties, though, engage in paid advertising on social media channels.

The current paid advertising by the Liberal Party on Facebook is largely free of anything that could be described as critical of any other party. The Liberals are running ads touting their housing policies and ads which encourage party members to attend a party convention in June.

New Democrats, too, are not running critical ads on Facebook. Instead, the party’s current ad inventory features ads pushing its focus on affordable housing policies.

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Facebook is alone among social media platforms in providing details about paid advertisements from political parties or candidates.

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