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“We hope and pray for peer kindness.” This was the headline of the Letters section in Monday’s Ottawa Citizen. Peer kindness and mutual respect are traits Canadian adults try to in instill in our young people. This is one part of the important response to contemporary tragedies such as the deaths by suicide of both Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd. The media and countless public figures have appropriately condemned the bullying and cruelty that precipitated these deaths.

Though the context is quite different, I was reminded of the tactics of bullies when I saw the first of the attack ads against Justin Trudeau. These videos have been prepared by and paid for by the political party that currently leads our country. Perhaps it is a stretch to compare attack ads to the bullying behaviour of high school students. But neither is right.

Bullying is never acceptable. It should not be tolerated in any home, any school or any community. The deliberate mistreatment through word or action by any part of our society directed at any other individual or group ought to be strongly denounced. For that reason, I am disturbed by the spiteful advertising campaign that the Conservative Party of Canada has so quickly launched against Justin Trudeau. The message is a personal attack. It is taunting. The scenes are taken out of context and the insinuations are inaccurate.

I understand the argument that “Attack ads work.” But at what cost? Negative ads may work for short-term political gain. But the consequence can be long-term social pain. The Conservative Party of Canada may find that these attack ads will influence voters to think twice about Justin Trudeau. In that sense “they work.” But we need to calculate the serious adverse effects on society. Here are a few of the negative consequences.

  • People become cynical about politics and politicians. Cynicism leads to disengagement.
  • A person’s character is unfairly assaulted. Real people and their families get hurt.
  • Good people will be less inclined to participate in public service.
  • Energy and resources are diverted away from addressing the serious matters that affect our society.
  • What would you add to this list?

Negative campaigning and the politics of shaming are damaging forces in society. Canadians must speak out against all forms of bullying. I want to be led by people who choose creativity over destruction; who choose charity over derision; who choose hard work over pettiness. I want our country to be led by people who inspire me to be a better person – and who show me how.

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Discussion - 5 Comments
  1. Heather

    Apr 16, 2013  at 7:26 AM

    It disturbs me that our political leaders (or at least the people who support them) see these terms as the strongest insults they can hurl: camp counselor, rafting instructor and (worst of all! — horror of horrors) DRAMA teacher. What does it mean that the people leading our country think so poorly of people who work with children and youth? That’s just one of many things wrong with these latest ads, from someone who ALSO works with children and youth.


  2. Karen

    Apr 16, 2013  at 7:26 AM

    Thanks for your post Jane! I appreciate and agree with your link between bullying and this kind of campaigning. I was just looking at the ad on YouTube and posted a comment there – the video has been re-posted here ( so people can comment, as the original posted by Conservatives, has the comments disabled. I hope it gets seen here so people voice their reactions and this attack ad works as it should – backfires on the Conservatives. I think most Canadians like myself would be happy to have a former camp counsellor as a leader (don’t we encourage young people to do this to develop leadership skills?) Justin Trudeau spent his youth engaged and involved and continues that with his participation in these events. That’s my idea of leadership.


  3. Thiva Kulasingam

    Apr 20, 2013  at 7:26 AM

    I can’t agree with you more Jane!! Great post on the attack ads.


  4. Carolyn Charbonneau

    May 02, 2013  at 7:26 AM

    I absolutely agree with you Jane. Attack ads make me feel completely disillusioned about politics in general. It baffles me that adults who are supposed to be leading our country, stoop to that level. I always struggle to find positive “platform information” to help me determine who I will vote for and I confess there have been times when attack ads have just turned me right off of a candidate/party and I have not really given them the time of day to look at what they do stand for.

    I have never thought to compare it to bullying but when I think about it, I think you are correct. I truly hope this practice will come to an end.


  5. Mike Rilstone

    May 05, 2013  at 7:26 AM

    You’re not speaking loud enough because I think there’s a Canadian or two who has not read this.
    You wrote, “What would you add to this list?”
    This could be a sub-note to “Real people and their families get hurt” but does anyone care what Justin Trudeau’s fast-maturing children think? Grandma Maggie, herself an expert on mental health, must be aghast at that perspective. Even if the JT TV is ordered off at home, (doubtful because it was Mom’s career and financial stability for years), there is a chance, albeit slim so far, that peers at school or in the playground might already be saying they have seen their father being bullied.
    Yes, the Trudeaus are real people at the end of the day, so Harper’s hurtful bullying should be ordered stopped immediately.
    It goes way over the line.


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