OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau is heading into the home stretch of the marathon federal election campaign with a show of force and a suite of new ads aimed at showcasing Liberal momentum and the leader's sunny optimism that hope will trump fear on Oct. 19.
The ads — three television and two radio spots — are aimed squarely at Stephen Harper, contrasting what Trudeau depicts as the Conservative leader's dismal economic record with the Liberal prescription for immediate "real change" to boost growth, create jobs and put more money in the pockets of struggling middle-class Canadians.
Only one makes a passing mention of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, whose party began the campaign as the front-runner but is now flagging in the polls.
Today's launch of the ads coincides with what Liberals are touting as the largest political rally in Canadian history. The rally in Brampton, Ont., one of the country's most ethnically diverse cities, is expected to attract some 7,000 party faithful and is intended to persuade progressive voters that there is only one party with the momentum to defeat Harper's Conservatives.
But it's also intended to underscore Trudeau's positive, hopeful message in contrast to what he labels the politics of fear and division: the Tories' emphasis on banning face-covering religious garb at citizenship ceremonies, revoking the citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism and cracking down on "barbaric cultural practices."
It's a message Liberal strategists believe will resonate loudly in ridings like Brampton, where half the residents are immigrants, for whom the prospect of two classes of citizenship is particularly worrisome.
Trudeau maintains that Harper has latched onto the niqab controversy and other hot button issues as a distraction from his economic record, which is the sole focus of the new Liberal ads. They hammer away at the theme that the Conservative leader is tired, out of touch and out of ideas to get Canada's stagnant economy growing again.
"You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," Trudeau intones in one TV ad as the screen fills with multiple shots of a dour-looking Harper over the years, buttoning his suit jacket as he rises to speak in the House of Commons.
"Stephen Harper has had 10 years to get our economy moving and he's failed. His plan for moving ahead? More of the same. Harper thinks everything is fine but our middle class is falling behind."
The ad then cuts to a cheerful, youthful Trudeau, shirt sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, striding purposefully across the grounds of Parliament Hill as he recites the pillars of his economic plan: "Raise taxes for our wealthiest one per cent, cut them for our middle class and invest now in jobs and growth. That's real change."
Another TV ad begins with Harper in the Commons saying that middle-class Canadians, unlike the middle class in most other countries, have experienced "good growth over the past few years."
"Stephen Harper has fallen out of touch with our middle class," Trudeau says. "He doesn't feel the frozen incomes, the rising cost of living, the disappearing jobs."
Trudeau opens one of the radio ads by asking: "Why do Stephen Harper and the Conservatives keep sending child benefit cheques to millionaires when it's our struggling middle class that needs the help?"
He then promises to "cancel those cheques to the wealthiest one per cent so we can put more money — $2,500 more per year, tax-free — in the pockets of middle class families who really need it. And I'll do it now."
The emphasis on immediacy in all the ads is a veiled dig at Mulcair, who is mentioned by name only in the other new radio ad, directed specifically at Torontonians.
In that ad, Trudeau opines that "the traffic in Toronto is unbelievable." He then trumpets his plan to "triple federal investment in transit over the next four years" — and says that's something neither Harper nor Mulcair can promise "because they want to balance the budget in Year One."
Trudeau is promising to run deficits of less than $10 billion for each of the next three years in order to almost double the federal investment in new infrastructure.