Liberal MP wants party leaders to take public responsibility for ads

Julian Wolfe
June 3rd, 2013

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux wants future political ads to end with an approval message from their leaders, a move that would make some of Harper’s personal attacks on the Liberals and NDP seem ridiculous. Imagine how powerful a message like “just visiting” or “in over his head” would be if it ended with “I’m Stephen Harper and I approve this message.” The new rule would apply to all parties and will be presented in a private member’s bill.

Lamoureux wants to pass a private member’s bill to reform Elections Canada rules to make all ads, regardless of being launched in a writ period or not, feature a fully identified party leader announcing his/her approval to the ad.

“At the end of the day, what I’d like to be able to see is a clear indication of leaders that take responsibility for their advertisements,” Lamoureux told the Winnipeg Free Press.

The idea behind the new rule is opted toward preventing parties and candidates from making outrageous claims.

The idea was clearly inspired by the American Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which has presidential candidates stand by their ads.

The idea was also promoted by popular CBC comedian Rick Mercer in a 2011 rant.

“At least in the United States, if one party attacks another party, the leader responsible has to pop up at the end and say I’m Joe Blow and I approve this ad,” he said. “In Canada our leaders don’t do that. And my guess is they never will. Because that takes courage. And bullies generally have none.”

Immediately after Justin Trudeau became the leader of the Liberal Party, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives launched a series of ads that claimed he was “in over his head.” They took footage of his charity work and footage of Trudeau from 1999, out of context, and blew the ideas out of proportion to claim Trudeau has no judgement. Poll numbers for Trudeau soared and the ads lead to a boom in Liberal fundraising.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement defended the ads in April, telling The Huffington Post the negative ads are just part of the “marketplace of ideas”

“It’s fairly typical for political parties to extol the virtues of their own leadership, their own policies, and contrast it with their political opponents,” he said. “That’s kind of what we have in question period every day of the week that the House is sitting.”

The Conservatives waited three months to claim Mulcair’s NDP was risky for the economy but none the less used the same tactics they used on the Liberals.

What do you think of Lamoureux’s idea? Should political parties be forced to feature their leader approving the message at the end of every ad?

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