In the 2003 Ontario election, a turning point occurred when a Conservative campaign staffer circulated a joke e-mail describing Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty as an “evil reptilian kitten eater from another planet.” The e-mail got into the media’s hands, onto the front page of the Toronto Sun, and the rest is history.
Like most gaffes that take on a life of their own, it revealed a deeper truth about the Conservatives: their negative branding of McGuinty as a weak leader, exemplified by running almost the exact same negative ads as in the previous campaign, had descended to the level of caricature. But after McGuinty had released a flurry of policy papers over the previous year the caricature was no longer credible, especially when compared to the Tories’ own leader, who had reversed or softened some of the policies and attitudes of his predecessor.
Paul Martin’s communications director Scott Reid bought himself a blue plate kitten special with this warning about Harper's child care plan on CBC television Sunday: “Don’t give people $25 a week to blow on beer and popcorn,” a comment defended later in the day by Reid’s fellow Martinite John Duffy. Finally somebody in the Liberal war room realized it wasn’t the most flattering metaphor to the moms they thought they had bought off with their handgun “ban,” and a sort-of apology was issued to reporters and repeated by Martin.
Sure enough, the crack made the front page of the Toronto Sun today with the headline “Senior Grit warns families could blow kids’ cash on beer.” Bill Carroll at CFRB Toronto spent his first hour of his call-in show on the topic. It was also a topic on Lowell Green’s show on CFRA (Ottawa).
The deeper truth that Reid’s remark reveals about the Liberals is, I think, this: “we don’t trust you with your own money, but even after AdScam you can still trust us with it – and your kids, too.” Will it be a turning point? As Kent Brockman says "Only time will tell."
As for child care, not having any kids myself I'm not up close to this issue, but what I tell people is: if you think the education system does a good job and you enjoy it when they go on strike, then vote for Martin's plan.