Alberta Politics

why early opposition attacks on alison redford will backfire.

Danielle Smith Alberta Wildrose No Plan
Left: No Plan ads from 2008 election. Right: Wildrose attack ads in 2011.

Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party has launched a series of negative television ads against soon-to-be Premier Alison Redford, who will be sworn-in as Premier tomorrow in Edmonton. The television ads bear an eerie resemblance to the negative ads used by Nancy MacBeth‘s Alberta Liberals in the 2001 election and the “No Plan” ads aired by the ‘Albertans for Change‘ coalition in the 2008 election.

The Wildrosers early attack ads are a page out of the federal Conservative Party election campaign textbook, which should not come as a surprise considering that Ms. Smith has surrounded herself with federal Tory activists, including Vitor Marciano, William McBeath, Ryan Hastman, and Steven Dollansky.

The most obvious differences between Ms. Redford and successful targets of federal Conservative smear campaigns are that:

1) she is not a Liberal, she is a Conservative
2) the PCs have a massive majority government in the Assembly and are still the best-organized and most well-funded political organization in the province, and
3) I believe that Albertans have generally been impressed with what they have seen of her so far.

Is it too early for the opposition parties to be lobbing grenades at the yet to be sworn-in Premier Redford? Ms. Redford was selected as leader at around 1:30am on October 2 and at 4:45pm, Wildrose attack dog Rob Anderson had already sent out a media release criticizing her. Always a gentleman, Mr. Anderson later tweeted that he would take a break from attacking Ms. Redford on Wednesday so that she could attend her mother’s funeral. How compassionate of Mr. Anderson.

Rob Anderson Twitter MLA Wildrose
Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson's October 5 tweet.

With the next general election expected within six months, the Wildrosers have decided to strike a negative tone, starting with attack ads and releasing a list of forty mistakes they say that the PCs have made during their forty years in government. The PCs have made many mistakes, but Albertans will reject the negative tone of the Wildrosers just as they have rejected the negative tone of the other opposition parties year after year. It is not enough to just remind Albertans that the Tories have become a monument to institutional mediocrity after forty years in government. Albertans know that because they voted for the PCs. Opposition parties need to take an extra step to give Albertans compelling and positive reasons to support them at the polls, something the Wildrosers have failed to do.

Not to be outdone by the Wildrose attacks against Ms. Redford, the NDP joined the fray. On Monday morning, NDP leader Brian Mason attacked Ms. Redford for delaying the fall sitting of the legislature, which was scheduled to begin on October 25, and the appointment of Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes to her transition team. While both criticisms were valid, they were never meant to be “constructive” as Mr. Mason claimed on his blog the next day.

Unlike the opposition parties, who rely heavily on the daily Question Period to get their media hits during the legislative session, I believe that it was perfectly reasonable for Ms. Redford to want more than 15 days to prepare a legitimate legislative agenda. Regardless of what I may believe, Ms. Redford took the opposition advice, and to Mr. Mason’s surprise, announced that there will be a fall sitting.

Meanwhile, Ontario conservative blogger Stephen Taylor spun the Wildrose talking points this week claiming that Ms. Redford is the product of a labour union conspiracy, because of the support she received from front-line education and health care workers during the campaign. Maybe the view from Ottawa is blurred, but Mr. Taylor’s argument is silly when you take into account that most of these front-line workers probably regularly vote for the PC Party anyway.

Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson pointed out early this week that Ms. Redford’s ‘honeymoon,’ a period that is traditionally given to new political leaders to allow them to settle into their new job, has been cut short by the opposition attacks. I predict these early aggressive tactics will only backfire on the opposition.

Every Albertan knows what is is like to start a new job and how bad it feels to get criticized before you even have a chance to started. No one likes the jerk who criticizes them before they have a chance to get familiar with the job. Hardline supporters of the opposition parties will rise to support their leaders attacks, but as the Wildrosers ads say, Albertans support integrity and democracy, but they also support fairness and don’t like jerks.

31 replies on “why early opposition attacks on alison redford will backfire.”

I was close to commenting on twitter that I sure find the WRP members and those running to be the most immature and lacking in any sort of tact in a public forum. (cough – Rob Anderson – cough) That exception was Ms. Smith. She seems to stay on point most of the time and did not get down in the mud. Then she released this video and my thoughts now apply to the whole party

The funny thing is that it was likely the standing orders that made her change her mind about the fall sitting.

She is the most change we have so far and reflect that times are changing in Alberta. Albeit slow change.

Do you suppose when the pcaa planned their leadership campaign they just forgot about the legislative assembly schedule? Or do you suppose they planned to blow off the fall sittng befor they began? Maybe fixed election dates would help them with their planning.

It is nice to think that they won’t work and my better nature hopes that, but I actually doubt it. I think that it makes sense for the WRP to do this. If you look at the standard right wing playbook, early definition of your opponent is crucial. Redford is still undefined to many Albertans. With her undefined she is open to definition. It makes sense for the WRP to attempt to do it. They want right now to implant questions that will rise up during the general election, these thoughts and questions will not shift polls, they will not weaken Redford (Ron Leipart will do that) but they will plant seeds of doubt that Smith hopes to harvest during the election. The long game is in play.

Hi Dave –

I would like to hear an explanation as to why it’s acceptable for Ms. Redford to be making major governance decisions like spending commitments before being sworn in, but it’s somehow in poor taste for opposition parties to criticize those decisions.

As for a positive message, you probably noticed last week we released a very detailed and comprehensive policy document that will form the basis of our platform. It’s the most exhaustive policy document by any party in Alberta today. The fact is Wildrose has been putting forward policy solutions more often and consistently than any party – including the PCs. That you choose to ignore that fact doesn’t negate it.

Finally, under Ms. Redford, Albertans are going to face two very different competing visions for Alberta. Our ad campaign will highlight these differences. Choice is good, and we intent to give Albertans a very real and very substantial option on their ballots.

(Forgive any typos – still getting used to the iPhone!)


“The easiest job in the world is to sit back and chuck shit”

This phrase – told to me by an old Newfoundlander when I was still a wee lad – sums up all that wrong with the Wildrose Alliance.

Their old Reform Party brain trust have not learned the lessons form their own past – specifically that it’s impossible to expect any positive leadership from a room full of people that focus solely on tearing everyone else down…

Hey Dave,

I’m a big fan of your site.

I agree that negative ADs are an unfortunate part of elections. However, your claim that they usually come from one source is fallacious – they are certainly by-partisan – anyone who claims that one side of the spectrum is more responsible for them is selling something.

It would be more constructive to question the ideas proposed in said ADs rather than just say they are bad because they are critical.

Dave is right, it doesn’t work in Alberta at most times, certainly not now. A certainty we’ve lived with in Alberta for years now – I was thinking similar thoughts to him.

The negative, American style attack politics of the Wildrose party will backfire. This blog couldn’t be more correct.

People are sick of negative politics. It’s anything but the Alberta way.

The Ads the Wildrose Party are running simply high light a contrast between what Redford has said and what she has done. I haven’t seen the factual basis of the ads attacked, given that all the statements made are matters of public record. The ads bring unflattering and I supose if you are the PC Party unhelpful facts about Ms. Redford’s record to light. But raising inconsistency in words versus deeds to the public’s attention is legitimate politics.

As for the whole “these ads will backfire” notion – how is Prime Minister Dion working out for you?

Unfortunately, I think the attack ads can work, in that they will have Redford on the defensive, from the get-go. As we saw this week, her Cabinet is going to be in a bit of disarray, as no one is entirely sure of her platform (or mandate). She’ll be left to defend herself.

It’s interesting though that Danielle Smith is IN the attack ads. My recollection of the federal Conservative playbook is that the leader stays out of the negative ads, and appears only in positive ones, with Harper petting kittens and bunnies. As you note, these ads paint Smith with the negativity, as opposed to just the party.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that beginning an offensive against Redford is entirely a bad idea. If she’s allowed to gain any sort of positive traction, the results to the opposition parties may be the same as they were to Gary Mar.

It’s silly to claim that negative attacks don’t work. Ralph Klein attacked his opponents often and viciously – with great success.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. We will have to wait and see what impact the Wildrose Ads have.

I agree with Dave. Brutal timing. She’s being sworn in as Premier. Negativity towards the new Premier of ‘Alberta’. It’s negativity directed at ‘Alberta’. Subconscious psyche is a fluid thing. Today is a bad day for black hat. TGIF

I’m a little slow so it took me a while to figure out that Brock Harrison is an attack dog for the Wild Haired Alliance party. The main take away from Brock is the usual twisted or faulty logic of the blue rinse neocons. “spending commitments” ? I heard them as campaign promises, something even WRA makes so cut the umbrage of how can Redford do such a thing. No actual spending changes are and can be made until she is sworn in, so simmer down.
And the puffing out of the chest about policy statements is too rich. Gee I thought I saw a steady stream of stuff from the Alberta Party and the others. So no big unique accomplishment by the WRA but then they figure they are the only ones to harrumph about town telling us how they would think for us.
And the bit about having only two different visions for voters clearly illustrates the arrogance and piety of the WRA. There are 5 parties with visions my boyo. There’s a calculator on that iPhone Brock, move those stubby fingers around a bit more freely and you might learn something about math.

Have just seen the attack ad. How utterly lame. It makes silly claims at a time of transition and events unfolding and the usual smug finale that says stick with me boys, we’re professionals with loads of integrity. Yeah sure.
Just the zealousness of launching this at this time will cement the WRA as a bunch of crabby old men led by a snide talkin’ cowgirl. They are too dumb to keep their trap shut and let the dust settle. Afflicted with premature politico ejaculation.

Attack ads work but it depends on who is doing the attacking. If it’s opposition parties, it has a much better chance at working than if its by an interest group/organization (teachers, nurses, unions, etc). The Wildrose “40 Reasons” campaign – which started before Redford won the leadership election – has the potential to be effective, particularly with people who think government has a spending problem. Redford announcing increased spending in education certainly won’t make those people any more comfortable.

As for the “two visions” concept Leroy, have you never heard of the cola wars? A core objective of the Pepsi-Coke cola war wasn’t just to increase sales but to choke out the other cola manufacturers. It’s why coke/pepsi allows its product to be shown in pepsi/coke commercials. Again, a very effective tactic, regardless of whether your smart phone has a calculator or not.

If pointing out what someone has said and done and it is pointed out on the campaign trail, is being defined as negative advertising, it is very apparent that we have gone over the “feel good” offend no one line. Can’t wait to see the you report on what Sherman has been saying about Redford!!!!


Calling for a fall sitting IS a constructive criticism. It’s calling on politicians to get back to work on some key issues.

I don’t see how revisited education spending, an education act, and fixed election dates, alone, aren’t worth a fall sitting. Alberta’s legislature already sits an embarassingly little amount of time.

Overall, you need to give credit to constructive opposition when it’s offered, because it’s too easy – and often effective – to go negative.

Opposition parties oppose. I don’t see anything wrong with them criticizing Redford – many of the critiques are valid (cancel fall siting, 40 reasons to vote out PCs, etc).

The opposition needs to define Redford before she can define herself. Personally, I would have held off on the ads a bit to find something meatier to attack her on, but I doubt they’ll actually air on TV, so no harm there.

Dave, you say Brian Mason’s criticism were “never meant to be constructive”. What are you basing that on? The role of opposition is to provide other points of view. Brian pointed out two ways Redford could have been doing her job better. She then changed her mind on both issues. Did you see more effective opposition somewhere else?

The lady showed grace under pressure. She listened as promised and was convinced to change her mind..a good thing surely. Why would it be considered good strategy to attack a choice that people made democratically? Be aware that many people who voted became PCs for a moment so they could have a say in who is the leader of the province.

Daveberta’s right on. It’ll backfire. Negative ads certainly do not always work. They couldn’t help Romney in 2008, millions of dollars of all negative ads. And he still deservedly lost.

You people have lost your moral compass if you ever had one. You’re first question if you care about conservative values should be the moral rightness of it and quite frankly it stinks – reeks in fact, of Yankee, Madison Ave, punks who talk fast at Rogers/AT&T, Amway, or Melaleuca Inc.

You who try and justify it are just a bunch of climbers in wannabe parties but you know nothing about real politics. Alison has all the cards now, she can do any number of things to make the Wild Rose Party wilt in their Scottsdale dream home. She plucks off this from them, then that, cutting the rug from under them. Hell they already lost a significant number of members who came running back Tory like Stephen Carter did himself.

Carping disloyal….if you learn nothing about loyalty you’ll have to learn the hard way that a divided house cannot stand. Some point will arrive when you angry wrappers will realise that no one in Alberta wants to dance with you!

What a joke this is. All is forgiven with the Alberta PC’s. Alberta is headed for trouble.

@”Joe Albertan” or whatever you are. You have zero cred when you insult people. I read Joe’s blog and you are definitely not him.

The attack ads by the Wildrose will backfire especially when it becomes public knowledge how they broke promises to there own party members in 2010 and were too arrogant to so much as even apologize. They are not fit to run the province and I am happy to see that they are busy digging their own political grave. They should have their own house in order before they start criticizing others.

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