B.C. election fuels the success of attack ads

The post-mortem of Tuesday’s provincial election brought a wide-array of questions to the surface.

The post-mortem of Tuesday’s provincial election brought a wide-array of questions to the surface.

How did the Liberals do it?

How could the pollsters be so wrong – again?

How could the NDP blow a seemingly easy victory?

To me those questions will never have concrete answers only more and more speculation and spin from all sides.

Solving how the Toronto Maple Leafs blew its three-goal lead in the final minutes of a Game 7 playoff game might be easier to answer.

The bottom line is the voters in the province decided and we move on.

However, the question that lingers for me was the method the campaign unfolded.

The Liberals went on the offensive and tapped into the attack-ad mode of diminishing its opponent through negative advertising and stump speeches.

Meanwhile, the NDP, in its strategy, preached its vision for the province and avoided slinging any mud during the campaign until suddenly it found itself floundering in the polls.

In our very un-scientific Trail Times website poll, 83 per cent of respondents didn’t think attack ads were effective.

I guess once again polls have proven to be an unreliable barometer of public opinion.

The sad part of it all is that the B.C. Liberals have proven that attack ads do garner votes.

Being negative about your opponent gets people’s attention and gets them talking.

You could almost hear the congratulatory call between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

Both agreeing that the negative style of campaigning, highlight your opponent’s flaws repeatedly with a barrage of advertising even if credibility is called into question, is the path to power.

It doesn’t matter if people have rallied against your policies or if fellow Canadians are suffering hardship as a result of your decisions, what matters is that during a campaign shining a light on your opponent’s faults is better than explaining your own.

I’m not saying the B.C. voters were wrong in electing a Liberal government.

To many, Clark’s decisions and vision for the future of B.C. mirrored what they hope the province will become in the next decade.

I have no problem going along with the majority, that’s what a democracy is all about.

And for the half of the eligible voters who didn’t bother to vote – you get the government you deserve.

For those that voted Liberal, NDP, Green or Independent, at least they voiced their opinion and the numbers determined the outcome.

My only fear is that the B.C. Liberals success, with its attacking style, and the NDP’s loss, based in part on its passive style, will continue to shape politics around the country for years to come.

Why would any politician seeking office, especially trying to knock off an incumbent, avoid using such tactics if they prove successful?

Say what you want about attack ads, the thing is they get people talking.

The minute the federal Conservatives launched its attack on Justin Trudeau when he became the federal Liberal leader, there was copious amount of chatter on TV and social media over the ads.

Suddenly people were checking out the ads whether they approved of them or not. The Tories’ goal of getting its message into the conversation surrounding Trudeau’s arrival in a leadership role worked.

So even though the majority of Canadians hate attack ads and vow to vote against a party using them, you can’t argue with success.

On the other hand, we THINK the majority of Canadians hate attack ads. That assumption came from polls and surveys. And we know how accurate they can be.

Perhaps voters do pay attention to those types of ads after all.

Like we saw many times during the U.S. presidential campaign, if you say something often enough about your opponent, people will believe it regardless if it’s true or not.

Not to say the Liberals lied during the campaign but rather emphasized potential negative aspects of the NDP enough that it resonated with voters.

So the electorate should brace itself for more of the same as the next federal election approaches.

And that begs the question of Trudeau’s approach of staying away from negative campaigning.

Will his federal Liberal strategists still stick to their guns in the face of the barrage of attack ads the Conservatives have no doubt loaded up in their canon?

Only time, certainly not polls or surveys, will tell.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times