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Is Trudeau's Positive Approach His Greatest Asset?

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Richard Lautens via Getty Images
Richard Lautens via Getty Images

Politics is an inherently divisive game... or, so one may think.

Canadians have seen divisiveness over the last three federal elections in particular as all of the major parties deployed increasingly nasty attack ads in an effort to one-up each other. Everyone can agree that the Conservatives have best utilized attack ads in their favour -- particularly against ex-Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion in 2008 and Michael Ignatieff in 2011.

Often, the attitude in retaliation to anything -- political strategies included -- is one of "if we can't beat them, we'll join them." So why, then, has Justin Trudeau's Liberal party taken the opposite approach?

When Trudeau was elected Liberal leader in April, 2013, it took the Conservatives less than 24 hours to post an attack ad on YouTube that called into question his judgement. After their successful utilization of attack ads in prior elections, many expected such a move from the Tories. There have been several similar ads released by the Tories since then, most targeting Trudeau.

Less than two weeks later, however, the Liberals responded with their own ad. In theirs, Trudeau sits on a school desk, flicks off a television showing the Conservatives' ad and calmly tells Canadians that his goal is to build a better country. For many, this ad was a first impression of Trudeau's political life, and so it was certainly fitting to kick it off on a positive note that has been largely maintained ever since.

Surely most Canadians are tired of the negativity that is so often associated with politics; indeed, perpetually pointing out vice gets tiring after a while. But perpetual positivity might at least instil some confidence in those paying attention.

Perhaps this negativity is one of the obstacles to political conversation, or, worse yet, maybe it is inhibiting greater democratic participation. It is hard enough to engage with politics as it is, especially since the field so often comes pre-packaged with negative connotations. And with the abundance of attack ads and negative statements from both parties and individual politicians in the past, who can blame anyone with such an opinion?

The good news is that the Conservatives' ads against Trudeau have unexpectedly backfired. Given our recent history of political negativity, that Trudeau has been viewed as a breath of fresh air makes sense: for better or for worse, at some level, he represents political positivity. A simple sign of Canadians' welcoming reaction to Trudeau's positive approach is that, right now, the Liberals' ad has about 200,000 more hits on YouTube than the Conservatives' original one.

Canadians are proud of our multicultural, accepting society. We have public healthcare, two official languages, and an array of individual rights -- all of which are aimed at more positive inclusivity. We have much to be positive about, and so it is nice to finally see some of our politicians reflecting these great principles.

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