The Liberals got caught with their pants down and they're squealing like pigs.
What kind of crazy world is this when the federal Conservatives launch attack ads, then admit they did it?Amateurs.
It's not like the good old days when the Liberals could launch a smear against Stephen Harper without leaving any fingerprints, then watch it unfold as "news."
Oh, what fun that was.
It was mid-December, 2005, in the midst of the last federal election campaign, when a Canadian Press reporter travelling with Conservative leader Stephen Harper was approached by -- how did they describe him -- "an opponent of his social policies."
It was the day before the first leaders debate on T.V. and just after the Liberal communications director had said parents getting monthly child care payments would just spend it on beer and popcorn.
Psst, said the tipster. (Okay, we made that up for dramatic effect - ed.)
The "opponent of (Harper's) social policies" told the Canadian Press reporter that a friend of his had been surfing the Internet when he stumbled upon a speech made by Harper to an American think tank. It was shocking and the Canadian public needed to know. He would direct CP to the speech on one condition---he wouldn't be identified.
The reporter passed the tip to CP's election desk in Ottawa. They spoke with the tipster who said he was a concerned citizen without any political affiliation. They ran the story.
1997 Harper speech resurfaces mid-campaign
December 14, 2005
OTTAWA - An eight-year-old Stephen Harper speech, which praises American conservative values, disparages Canada as a "welfare state'' and says the jobless aren't worried because they have generous benefits, could provide fresh ammunition to his critics.
The speech was delivered to a 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a little-known right-wing American think tank.
CBC's Ottawa reporter Keith Boag quoted from the speech on the National that night. CTV gave the story some context on its website.
1997 Harper speech resurfaces mid-campaign
Updated Wed. Dec. 14 2005 11:34 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Just in time to give his political foes ammunition to use during Thursday's leaders debate in Vancouver, an eight-year-old speech has resurfaced, threatening to trip up Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
The Liberals professed themselves surprised at the "news" but wasted no time jumping on the CP "scoop."
As CP eventually reported:
The story was immediately leapt upon by the Liberal war room as evidence the Conservative leader is outside mainstream Canadian opinion.
By the following day, the Liberals were sending out backgrounders under the following Editor's Note: "A CP story yesterday highlighted a speech given by the Honourable Stephen Harper to the Council on National Policy.'' But then, in their arrogance, the Liberals slipped up.
CP learned from one of their reporters, Alexander Panetta (who was in town to cover the debate) that the tipster was in Vancouver working with Paul Martin's team preparing to tackle the other party leaders. They contacted Mr. Tipster with a follow-up question.
Was the Liberal Party behind his tipping the news agency about the speech?
Uuuhhh, he said.
The jig was up.
CP ran a story detailing how thery got suckered by Alex Munter, a well-known gay activist from Ottawa (where Panetta, who reported on the gay marriage debate, would have known him well).
Anonymous tip on old speech leads back to Liberals
Bruce Cheadle Canadian Press, December 18, 2005
WA (CP) An eight-year-old Stephen Harper speech dug up by Liberal researchers cracks a rare window into campaign war-room strategy, media manipulation and the ethical quicksand that sometimes underlies an election leak.
This is a tale that reflects well on no one.
In its simplest terms, the Liberals used a third party to put a buffer between them and a story that was unflattering to the Conservative leader.
Now that's how to put out a smear.
Use a cut-out.
Feign shock and anger.
You don't just buy an ad.
In fact, if the Liberals have their way, you can't just buy an ad like the ones the Conservatives want to run Super Bowl weekend.
It turns out that one of their stalwart financial contributers is James Patterson, the man behind Telecaster, the private agency that screens TV ads.
Canadian television stations let Telecaster tell them what's safe to air.
Swearing is a no-no. So too, apparently, were Conservative ads during the last election campaign which showed Liberal MPs admitting their own attack ads against Stephen Harper had gone too far. Telecaster canned them before their aired.
The Liberals may have thought that the Conservatives could never get attack ads past their boy. And maybe they're right. But the news media have repeated the Dion ads a thousand times, giving the Conservatives a million dollars of free ad time.
The ads were a pre-emptive strike. They gave the Conservatives the initiative in Day One of Question Period. They were Topic #1 on Mike Duffy's first show after his heart surgery. They were the top of the fold on every major newspaper.
Did they work?
We'll let Canwest columnist Greg Weston have the last word:
"...Harper's strategists apparently believe they can kill two political issues with one set of attack ads, portraying the Liberals as eco-delinquents and Dion as an ineffective leader who got nothing done as environment minister... Like everyone, Dion only gets one chance to make a first impression with voters, and the Conservatives seem only too happy to introduce Dr. Did Little."
Ouch. That hurts. No wonder the Liberals are squealing.