The Politics of Fear and Negativity on the Right

The 2015 federal election campaign has officially begun. Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives this month fired the opening salvos in what will be the most negative and divisive election in Canadian history.

Perhaps you’ve seen the PM’s three new attack ads on YouTube (ask them to comment on the ads and they’ll pretend they don’t exist).

The most reprehensible of the three begins with the sounds of terror—an explosion and sirens.

It then cuts to an out-of-context Justin Trudeau answering a question on the Boston Marathon bombing, edited to appear sympathetic to those accused of the attack.

While that would certainly be disgusting enough, the screen then fades into the oft-played clip of Trudeau taking his shirt off while walking the runway at a charity event.
“Justin Trudeau, he’s in way over his head.”

This is the full statement Trudeau made that apparently makes him unfit for office.

“Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue, but there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from? Yes, there’s a need for security and response. But we also need to make sure that as we go forward, that we don’t emphasize a culture of fear and mistrust. Because that ends up marginalizing even further those who already are feeling like they are enemies of society.”

A thoughtful answer by Trudeau given during the early stages of the investigation is framed as dangerous naivety.

We cannot afford to elect a PM whose first instinct is to gather all the information before committing to a knee-jerk reaction! No, Canadians want action!

It should be obvious to every Canadian that Trudeau does not support terrorists or terrorism and would do everything in his power to keep Canadians safe. Trudeau’s response emphasizes prevention as much as is humanly possible.

His response was the antithesis of defeat or weakness. It presents the idea that as a democratic, peaceful people we will not let terrorism define our society. We refuse to let fear define our lives or give in to the violent reactions that the terrorists try to arouse in us. We are better than them and we still believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.

In other words, they have failed in their goal.

It was most importantly about how to stop further attacks from happening.

According to the Conservatives, that means you are rationalizing terrorism. The world of conservatism is horribly black and white, isn’t it?

These types of ads are naturally repugnant to Canadians. This negativity is commonplace in the repulsive partisan politics of the United States, but in Canada we expect more from our leaders.

That 15-second ad may mark a significant paradigm shift in Canadian politics—a shift toward negativity and fear. A shift that no longer holds debate and vigorous discourse in high regard, but rather prides mud-slinging and personal insults.

As always, we still have a choice what direction to move in. We still have time to reject this type of politics.

That choice happens in the voting booth Oct. 19, 2015.