LONDON, Ont. — The Conservative campaign began with a single goal: define Justin Trudeau as a man just not ready to lead.
But 11 weeks in and the polls suggest Canadian disagree, so the Conservatives are ending the campaign trying to define something else: what it would mean to Canada to have a Liberal government calling the shots.
Conservatives say they don’t consider the pivot to represent a failure of the earlier tactic but rather the natural progression of the campaign — before it began, no one knew what Trudeau represented, but now they do.
The Liberals have made their ballot question whether Canadians want four more years of Stephen Harper, Conservatives say, but what the answer needs to be is what four years of the Liberals would look like.
“In just six days, Canadians will chose a government to manage our economy for the next four years. There is a lot at stake,” Harper told hundreds of supporters at a rally in London, Ont., Tuesday night.
“And the wrong decisions in Ottawa, taxes and spending on deficits will have real consequences for families, for seniors for all Canadians everywhere.”
As part of that messaging, Harper has dropped all the dismissive references to the Liberal leader as only Justin, replacing it with the new strategy showcasing what he says is the impact of his government as being thousands of dollars out of the pockets of the people, demonstrated via a cash register bell and local business owners and families throwing hundreds of dollars on the table.
But that’s the national message.
At the local level, a different case is being made, especially in the ethnic media where Conservatives are framing the question about Trudeau not in economic terms but social ones.
Ads in Chinese and Punjabi media have attacked Trudeau’s positions on marijuana and prostitution, taking considerable latitude with the latter by suggesting the Liberals would allow brothels to be set up in people’s neighbourhoods. The Liberals have not said they will legalize prostitution.
The Conservatives position the issues as value questions, an effort to keep some in ethnic communities from going back to casting a ballot for the Liberals like many did for decades before the Conservatives stepped up their ethnic outreach game.
The legalization of marijuana in particular is an issue in certain communities; at an appearance by Harper at a Chinese community celebration in Richmond Hill a few weeks ago, one of the men introducing him made specific reference to Harper’s stance against legalizing pot as a reason Chinese Canadians should support him.
The message surfaced last week as well at an all-candidates debate hosted by the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, where Conservative candidate and incumbent MP Terence Young said there are two key choices presented for voters in this election, national versus local.
The former is about deficits versus low taxes while the local one is about something else, he said, communities that are quiet and safe where housing values are secure or the alternative as he presented
He said that is about safe communities, where housing values are secure, or, the alternative, as he presented it:
“Communities where a federal Liberal government mandates legally-protected brothels with madams and all that goes with that because the Liberals have promised to legalize the selling of women in Canada, and mandates marijuana stores like in Vancouver where there are more illegal marijuana stores than Starbucks,” he said, to cries of disbelief from the audience that prompted the moderator to intervene.
The Liberals have not said they would legalize the selling of women nor that their policy of legalization marijuana would include putting it up for sale in department stores.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Pres