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Perfesser Dave explains negative TV advertising and the job-killing Tory carbon tax

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Perfesser Dave

Some stories are just too complicated for ordinary bloggers to explain. That's when we turn to the expert knowledge offered by Perfesser Dave, the Answer Guy. Not only does Perfesser Dave know practically everything there is to know about politics and economics in Canada, he's a world-renowned expert on negative political advertising. He was in on the planning of the advertising campaign that taught TV viewers about how Ed Stelmach, who was then the premier of Alberta, had no plan. Really! He's thought a lot ever since about what happened after that. So if you have questions about negative political ads, just ask Perfesser Dave!

Questioner: Perfesser Dave, I'm totally confused. How can the prime minister of Canada blame Thomas Mulcair, the NDP Opposition leader, for a tax the prime minister used to say he wanted to make us pay? This makes no sense at all! Why would anyone say a crazy thing like that? Can you please illuminate my fuzzification?

Perfesser Dave: What are you getting in a swivet about this time, Questioner? That's just the way politics is done in Canada. If you have an idea and people don’t seem to like it very much, you blame your opponents. Then when you get into power because you scared the beejeepers out of the voters, you go ahead and do what you blamed your opposition for wanting to do …

Questioner: But that doesn't make any sense, Perfesser! If you’re going to do what the other parties wanted to do, why wouldn't people vote for them?

Perfesser Dave: Just give me a minute, Questioner. I'm coming to that…

Questioner: Well, OK, I guess… You are the Answer Guy…

Perfesser Dave: You bet. I'm a world-renowned expert in negative TV advertising. Didn't you read the introduction to this piece? Now just be quiet and listen to me for a minute and you might learn something. OK?

Questioner: OK. I guess…

Perfesser Dave: Now, where was I? … DON'T answer! If your ideas scare people, you can attack your opponents for having the same ideas. If that works, you might be able to scare enough of voters into not voting for the other guys that you win the election!

Questioner: But…

Perfesser Dave: Just wait! But this: If it doesn't work, you'll be hooped, but everybody knows that TV audiences scare easily, so it usually does work -- except when the other guys are trying to scare everyone too, and then it gets confused. That’s what happened to Karl Rove this time, the poor bugger…

Questioner: Who’s Karl Rove?

Perfesser Dave: Never mind. Just a friend of mine from the States. The thing is, since this usually works, when you get back into power you can put your idea, the one you blamed on your opponents, into practice and your supporters will support you because they're on your team, and your opponents' supporters will support you because you’re doing what they wanted anyway, and then everybody will be happy and you'll go way up in the polls and… If it costs too much, you can tell 'em you’re fighting the deficit and most of them will shut up.

Questioner: So you're saying Tom Mulcair’s job-killing carbon tax is really Prime Minister Steve Harper's job-killing carbon tax? And if Mr. Harper gets re-elected, he'll impose a job-killing carbon tax on Canada? Now I'm really confused.

Perfesser Dave: I am the Negative Ad Maven! So, yes, but not quite…

Questioner: What's a maven?

Perfesser Dave: You're kidding me, right? You really know what a maven is…

Questioner: Will it be on the final exam? 

Perfesser Dave: Nothing about mavens…

Questioner: Don't worry about it then, Perfesser. But those ads, are you seriously saying Prime Minister Harper wants to impose a job-killing carbon tax so he’s blaming the NDP for it so people won't blame him when he does it?

Perfesser Dave: Exactly. Except it's not a tax, and it won't kill jobs whoever gets to impose it …

Questioner: No! If it goes in, the price of everything will go up! And that will kill jobs. Even Halloween candy will go up! And gasoline! That's what the ads said! Nobody wants the price of gasoline to go up!

Perfesser Dave: Prius drivers do.

Questioner: Really? They do?

Perfesser Dave: Yeah, so that everyone will see how smart they were, when they bought their stupid cars for three-times as much as an ordinary car, the self-righteous little prigs!

Questioner: OK, but…

Perfesser Dave: OK nothing! I can't stand those Greens! And I can't stand Priuses! The Tories need to do some ads about them! Maybe blame them for wanting to sell out to China!

Questioner: But it’s the Tories who want to sell out to China! Anyway, I'm still confused about that job-killing carbon tax…

Perfesser Dave: The job-killing Tory carbon tax?

Questioner: I guess….

Perfesser Dave: What about it? I've already explained how politics work in Canada. It's been done before and it'll be done again. And thanks to the miracle of mass-market TV ads, it works like a darn -- or, at least, it did until everyone went digital and stopped watching TV ads. Frankly, I don't know how the hell the Tories are going to win any more elections without anyone watching TV! They don't have any ideas of their own, and now they're giving their best ones to the NDP!

Questioner: Aww, Perfesser Dave, I don't believe you. Tell me you're just kidding me. Right? Nobody's ever done that in Canada before…

Perfesser Dave: Zap! You're frozen!

Questioner: What! You startled me! I beg your pardon?

Perfesser Dave: Zap! … You're … frozen …

Questioner: I don't get it, Perfesser. I'm not frozen. It’s always too hot in this building.

Perfesser Dave: It's the hot water heating. Old as the school. They get better heating in the science buildings. But in the summer the joke's on them, 'cause our windows still open!

Questioner: Aww, Perfesser Dave, would you stick to the point so I can understand this? Now you're putting me on, right?

Perfesser Dave: Absolutely not. The year was 1974. Bob Stanfield…

Questioner: Bob who?

Perfesser Dave: You're kidding me, right? You are a political science major? The underwear guy… The premier of Nova Scotia…

Questioner: The underwear guy? What does underwear have to do with politics?

Perfesser Dave: Why don't you ask General Petraeus that question?

Questioner: Who?

Perfesser Dave: Never mind. Obscure reference…

Questioner: OK, but about this underwear?

Perfesser Dave: Underwear has much more to do with politics than you’ll ever imagine, son, but don’t worry about that right now. Mr. Stanfield was also the leader of the Conservatives, and he wanted to impose wage and price controls to fight the inflation…

Questioner: I think I read about the inflation …

Perfesser Dave: And Prime Minister Trudeau…

Questioner: Justin was prime minister…?

Perfesser Dave: Pierre Trudeau … Justin's dad … shouted "Zap! You're frozen!" and everyone laughed at Mr. Stanfield , who dropped the football, and everybody voted for Mr. Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau got elected, and …

Questioner: I get it! And imposed wage and price controls …

Perfesser Dave: I knew you were a bright boy! You're right, of course. And everybody loved it … except the unions of course. But who cares about them?

Questioner: What are unions again?

Perfesser Dave: Just something we used to have in Canada. Don't worry about them either. They're definitely not on the exam. The university doesn't want to lose any more funding!

Questioner: OK! This is better than usual, Perfesser! I feel like I’m really starting to understand. But what should I do if I don’t want a job-killing carbon tax? If I vote for the NDP, I'll get one. But if I vote for the Tories I'll get one too…

Perfesser Dave: Well, actually, it's not a carbon tax, it’s a cap and trade system, and it won't kill jobs, but you are going to get it no matter whom you vote for…

Questioner: What? What about the Liberals?

Perfesser Dave: Nope. Them too. They'll give you one too, and you've got to know the Greens want the same thing? And so do the Conservatives. Thing is, it's just an idea whose time has come. And the business guys are going to love it, because they love to trade stuff around and then write it off against their taxes. Makes 'em feel smart. So it doesn't matter who you vote for, you’re going to get it, only whoever gives it to you will say it’s not the same thing -- they'll say it’s a cap and trade system, which as a matter of fact it is. So with the new name, it'll create jobs…

Questioner: But why? Why is whoever gets elected going to do it?

Perfesser Dave: Simple. Because President Obama wants it, and he just got re-elected…

Questioner: Huh?

Perfesser Dave: Like I said, the business crowd will love it, because they get to buy and sell stuff and write stuff off, so even the Republicans down south will vote for it. And as soon as the Americans do it, we'll have to do it too, just to be in on the fun.

Questioner: But who should I vote for? Awwww, Perfesser Dave, I'm confused again!

Perfesser Dave: You’re best bet would be to vote for the NDP…

Questioner: Who's that guy? He looks mad…

Perfesser Dave: Tom Mulcair?

Questioner: No! That guy!

Man in Tan Trenchcoat: Where the hell is Perfesser Dave? Are you Perfesser Dave?

Perfesser Dave: Maybe… Who's asking?

Man in Tan Trenchcoat: I'm Allan Fotheringham, and you've plagiarized my fuzzification idea, you bastard!

Perfesser Dave: Plagiarism? You want Perfesser Wente. She's just down the hall…

Man in Tan Trenchcoat: No! I want YOU!

Questioner: I'm outta here!

Perfesser Dave: Ditto! Can I buy you a coffee?

Questioner: I've never had a perfesser buy me a coffee before… sure! Anyway, I wanted to ask you about that football…

Man in Tan Trenchcoat: Hey, you two come back here right now…

NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Situations like those described did not and could not happen in real life. Any relation between the characters mentioned in this story and real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, even if they have the same names. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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