KITCHENER CITIZEN OP ED - NOVEMBER 2017
When political attack ads begin to fill the airwaves, you know there must be an election on the horizon.
A few weeks ago, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives were first out of the gate with two contrasting commercials. One featured a smiling PC boss, Patrick Brown, with a sunny message highlighting his aspirations.
The other offering is a classic, attack-style message. A darkened photo of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. A menacing male voice barking the words “corrupt” and “untrustworthy.”
The Liberals have launched their own ads. Their commercial showed “average Ontarians” talking about wages, coping with precarious work, and trying to save for post-secondary education. The Premier then appeared saying she’s “Fighting for fairness.”
Not to be left out of the pre-election air war, a number of third party organizations have waded into the political arena, primed to take their punches with hopes of swaying voters.
The Working Families Coalition ad shows PC leader Patrick Brown as a weather vane, perched above the Ontario legislature. His picture spins around, with the voice-over stating, “He just blows with the winds of political opportunity.”
We learn that as a federal MP, Brown voted against marriage equality, abortion, and labour rights. However, he’s changed his position on these issues.
And, perhaps you’ve seen the ad launched by a group called Working Ontario Women. This commercial is similar to the Brown-as-a-weather-vane specimen. The viewers are informed of Brown’s shifting positions.
So, how do we make sense of these political advertisements? What are we to believe?
Perhaps it’s the three decades I spent as a news journalist which triggers a visceral reflex reaction when I see political ads. The question I always ask: is the information factual?
Let’s put these ads to the fact test.
As a federal MP, Brown voted to re-criminalize abortion, even though his leader, Conservative Stephen Harper, urged him not to do so.
Brown also voted against The Civil Marriage Act, which recognizes same sex marriage.
And, while Brown is now framing himself as a champion of labour, he recently voted against Bill 148, which provides a living wage for all Ontarians. Labour groups, across Ontario, disagree with Brown.
So, the ads illustrating Patrick Brown’s flip-flopping on various issues are correct.
What about the TV commercials that characterize Premier Wynne as “corrupt?” Are there provable facts to support this claim?
Kathleen Wynne certainly doesn’t think so.
She served Brown with a libel notice after he claimed she was “on trial” in the Sudbury by-election bribery case. That case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Presiding Judge Howard Borenstein stated, “The charges should never have been laid,” and the case was, “a waste of time and money.”
Finally, what about those positive, feel good Liberal ads?
Although we want to believe it’s better to take the “high road,” there’s a mountain of evidence to show negative ads do work.
That leaves you, the voter, to decide whether these ads will sway your vote.
My advice? Always consider the facts. Because, facts do matter.
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