Liberals Amp Up Online Campaign Critiquing Poilievre, Drawing Trump Comparisons

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Liberal Party of Canada has ramped up its online presence with a series of new videos sharply criticizing Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, one even drawing a parallel between him and the divisive former U.S. President Donald Trump. This move represents a tactical shift as the Liberals aim to solidify their messaging ahead of potential future ad campaigns.

Testing the Waters

According to CBC News, the Liberals have confirmed that one of their recently posted videos was the first to juxtapose Poilievre with Trump. The clip includes footage of Poilievre’s recent contentious encounter with a journalist in British Columbia, where he was seen eating an apple, and attempts to draw similarities to Trump’s political rhetoric.

Other videos feature criticisms from Poilievre’s Conservative leadership race opponents concerning his views on Bitcoin, along with showcasing Poilievre in the House of Commons backing a raise in the retirement age to 67—a policy once supported by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2012.

Dan Arnold, a former director at the Prime Minister’s Office, suggests these videos serve as a preliminary trial to gauge public reaction before substantial funds are invested in a larger-scale advertising campaign. Arnold, currently the chief strategy officer at Pollara Strategic Insights and senior adviser at Alar Strategy Group, told CBC News, “It’s a bit of a testing ground to see what you want to push forward with when you move toward that big TV campaign at some point in the future.”

A Response to the Conservatives’ Campaign

The Conservative Party recently launched a national ad campaign painting Poilievre as a devoted family man set on mending the nation. With plans to spend over $3 million over three months, as reported by CBC News, the ads are likely to have a significant reach across the country.

Liberals Seek a Counter Narrative

In light of this, the Liberals’ videos are seen as an aggressive response to the Conservatives’ surging poll numbers. David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, pointed out that portraying Poilievre in a negative light is crucial for the Liberals, especially since the opposition leader is increasingly viewed as a “comfortable and safe alternative” by the public.

Moreover, internal pressure from the Liberal caucus has been mounting for a more assertive approach in tackling Poilievre’s criticism. CBC News conveyed insights from London West MP Arielle Kayabaga, who at a Liberal caucus retreat in September expressed a desire for campaign ads that would expose the true persona of the Conservative leader, indicating a strategy to aggressively target Poilievre’s long tenure in politics.

Spending and Strategy

While the Liberals have not yet committed the multi-million dollar investment that Arnold deems necessary to sway public opinion significantly, these online videos serve an immediate purpose. They offer material for Liberal supporters to use in discussions and assist in bolstering the morale of Liberal MPs who face Poilievre in Parliament.

Reaction to the Liberal Tactics

The Liberals have traditionally promoted a positive political approach, but the new strategy has not gone without criticism. When questioned by CBC News about the video comparing Poilievre to Trump, Immigration Minister Marc Miller defended the approach, emphasizing the necessity to reveal Poilievre’s character to Canadians.

Miller’s remarks prompted a strong response from the Conservative camp, with MPs Michelle Rempel Garner and Marc Dalton taking to social media platforms to criticize the Liberals’ approach, suggesting desperation on the part of the ruling party.

As the political tension escalates, fundraising efforts continue to reflect party support, with Conservatives outpacing Liberals by a considerable margin in the most recent quarter.

Looking Forward

The Liberal Party’s communications director, Parker Lund, stated that the party would persist in highlighting the contrasts between Poilievre’s policies and the progressive direction they believe Canada should head in, through their communications and digital engagement strategies.

The videos released represent not just an attempt to shape the public’s perception of Poilievre, but also signal a battleground for the narratives that will define the upcoming political contests. As these strategies unfold, the Liberals and Conservatives continue to vie for the hearts and minds of Canadian voters in an increasingly digital-focused political landscape