With a federal election just a year away, an advocacy group that was once closely associated with Stephen Harper is urging Canadians to "say no to Trudeau."
The National Citizens Coalition, which bills itself as a non-partisan organization dedicated to free-market principles and liberty, has launched a campaign directly targeting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
And, in a radio ad released online, the group pushes the narrative that Trudeau is too inexperienced to become prime minister.
In the 30-second ad, a woman is heard questioning where Trudeau stands on the important issues.
"The budget, for instance. I wonder how he would handle that," she says.
"Oh, well that's easy," a man replies. "He once said the budget will balance itself."
"Ha! That doesn’t even make sense," she replies.
Listen to the ad below:
Last February, shortly after the release of the federal budget, Trudeau was asked by CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen how committed he would be to balancing the budget right away.
"Would it worry you to go into deficit in this current climate to, as you say, put more people to work?" he asked.
"The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself," Trudeau replied.
Tories have relentlessly mocked Trudeau for the remark ever since, pointing to it as evidence that he can’t be trusted to manage the economy. An edited clip of the exchange, in which Trudeau is shown saying only that the "budget will balance itself," is featured prominently in a Conservative attack ad.
The NCC says on its website that the remark was "disrespectful to Canada's hard-working families." The organization claims Trudeau is interested in higher spending and increased debt.
The group also accuses Trudeau of wanting to bring in a "disastrous" carbon tax. While the Liberal leader hasn't directly called for a tax, he has spoken about "putting a price" on carbon pollution.
The NCC promises online to provide a "truth campaign" in the coming months and keep track of "all the most dangerous and egregious things" Trudeau says.
This is not the first time the NCC has set its sights on a top Liberal. In 2012, the group released an ad slamming then-interim Grit leader Bob Rae, criticizing his record as Ontario premier and accusing him of plotting to take over the party.
NCC president Peter Coleman denied at the time that the group was trying to help federal Tories, telling The Hill Times they "do not work for the Conservative Party, never have, never will." However, Hill Times reporter Tim Naumetz wrote that Coleman "deflected" a question on whether the group maintains contact with Harper or other Tories.
Though the NCC has been critical of the Harper Conservatives in the past for "not acting conservative enough," the group's past connection to the prime minister could set off some alarm bells.
Harper stepped down as a Reform MP in 1997 to become vice-president of the NCC, and later became the group's president. He resigned that position when he ran for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2002.
The prime minister's official website makes mention of his years working with the group, calling it a "non-partisan Canadian organization that advocates for individual freedoms and accountable government."
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