OTTAWA — Conservative Andrew Scheer is being painted in a new attack ad as a weak leader who will give tax breaks to the rich and slash health care services.
Engage Canada, a union-backed coalition of progressives, says it is targeting five dozen ridings in vote-rich areas, notably seats in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas and in cities in Southwestern Ontario, such as Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor.
Watch the ad:
The group’s spokesperson, Tabitha Bernard, told HuffPost Canada that the television and digital ads were launched Tuesday in an effort to brand the Tory leader ahead of the election.
“The Conservatives haven’t succeeded in defining their own leader,” she wrote in an email. “The research we conducted revealed that Canadians don’t know Andrew Scheer.”
Engage Canada hopes the image of a bobblehead Scheer bizarrely grinning under the tag line “Yes-man to the 1%” will leave a lasting impression with voters.
In the 30-second ad, a Scheer bobblehead smiles through accusations that he said yes to tax cuts for the richest Canadians (based on the fact that he voted against the Liberals’ tax increase to those reporting income above $200,000); that he would say yes to tax cuts for big business (based on comments from other Conservative MPs); and an allegation he would cut health care services, as Ontario Premier Doug Ford attempted to do. “Scheer’s weakness will cost you,” the ad states.
It is reminiscent of attack ads the Conservative party ran against Liberal leaders that dubbed Stephane Dion “not a leader,” Michael Ignatieff as someone who was “just visiting,” and Justin Trudeau as “just not ready.”
Engage Canada’s website — ScheerWeakness.ca — also seeks donations to spread its message. It’s is an effort, Bernard said, to counter conservative-funded groups such as Ontario Proud, Canada Proud, and Working Canadians, which have also tried to influence voters.
The group does not have to report its ad buy unless its campaign runs past June 30, when new rules kick-in, forcing all third-party groups engaged in pre-writ advertising to limit their spending to $1,023,400 across the country and to no more than $10,234 in any one electoral district during the summer period.
Engage Canada ran ads in pre-writ period in 2015
When the writ drops, and the formal election begins, third parties won’t be allowed to spend more than $511,700 on partisan activities, such as ads or polling, and no more than $4,386 in any particular district.
Engage Canada did not advertise during the last election, but it did run ads in the pre-writ period against the Conservatives. The 2015 ads suggested Canada was sliding into a recession and that the governing Tories were doing nothing to prepare for it. While there were two quarters of negative GDP growth in the first part of 2015 — the technical definition of a recession — other economic indicators suggested there was no real recession. There was no recession in the latter part of 2015.
Scheer’s office did not return a request for comment.
Also on HuffPost: Trudeau targets Scheer in election-style speech