Attacks step up

And they are off!

This is the traditional call at the beginning of a horse race but it should be the call at the beginning of the campaign season. The federal election campaigns have begun.

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Of course, the parties are not allowed to call them campaigns at this point. And the funding for the advertisements is a complicated mixture of rules and regulations. But there is little doubt the parties have started racing towards the October finish line.

The most obvious campaigning comes in the form of Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau. The first one I saw started with a close-up on U.S. President Donald Trump while the voiceover talks about ethical standards, lying to elected officials, firing his attorney-general and such. All the while the camera slowly pulls back until we see Trump pointing at Trudeau standing next to him.

As advertisements go, it was reasonably effective. It had a surprise hook as initially a viewer would think it was about Trump and all his misdeeds. But then the punchline is revealed - "Trudeau - not at advertised."

This would seem to be the theme of the pre-election election campaign for the Conservative Party. Trudeau is not as advertised.

For their base, I suspect the ad works well and gets people fired up. After all, there is no question The Donald is a dolt who shouldn't be in power. Comparing Trudeau to Trump allows the base to say "well, you say Trump is an idiot but Trudeau has done the same things."

Except, of course, he hasn't.

Our government doesn't operate in the same way the American government does. We don't have separate legislative and executive branches. Ours is blended together. We don't have a president with the power to hire and fire within the executive branch at will. And, for that matter, stonewall the legislative branch and its agenda.

Imagine if our prime minister was able to veto any legislation drafted by Parliament (He can't. Instead we leave it up to our Conservative Senate to stall legislation out of existence - just kidding!).

Comparing Trudeau to Trump is a false comparison. Better would be a comparison to the likes of U.K. Prime Minister Teresa May.

The second set of advertisements I have seen feature "man or woman on the street" - type of interviews. Essentially they all fall along the same pattern. A typical Canadian in a typical neighbourhood saying they voted for Trudeau last time but he has lied to Canadians - whether about proportional representation or the price of gasoline or carbon taxes.

Of course, no one elects the prime minister. You vote for a party and hopefully for the best local candidate in each riding. The intent of a representational democracy is to elect someone who represents the collective view of the electorate in a particular region. They are then supposed to represent the common viewpoint of the voters in their riding to the other members of Parliament.

Unfortunately, our system doesn't quite work the way it is intended. Living next door to the great American experiment in democracy, we tend to be inundated by their politics and political structure. As a consequence, we tend to think of the leader of a party as the party and vice versa.

But our system is meant to be model on the British Parliament where even members of Teresa May's own party are calling her out and voting against her proposals. A British prime minister is embattled from without and within as the opposition and party backbenchers often take pot shots.

In any case, blaming higher gas prices on Trudeau is absurd. For one thing, these ads must only be playing in B.C. because gas prices have stayed roughly constant for the past couple of years in the rest of Canada. And our gas prices have nothing to do with taxation or the introduction of a carbon tax. They are fueled by refinery shutdowns and limited commodities.

It does make for a nice sound bite, though.

As to the whole issue of proportional representation, I can only assume the Conservative Party ads are really pushing the hypocrisy envelope.

The Conservatives would never get into power under a proportional representation voting scheme. All of the potential political allies they have are in their tent. A coalition between the NDP or Green Party and the Conservatives would never happen.

Actually, never is probably too strong a word but it would require the Conservative Party and its leader to recognize long-term environmental degradation is the cost of a shortsighted economic policy which will see a few Canadians make more money than the other 99 per cent combined. Until Andrew Scheer and his local candidates start to demand climate change action, they will never have enough MPs to form government.

The race is on. Like winter, the election is coming.

It should make for fun summer viewing.

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