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Does advertising plagiarism suggest Harper government's running on intellectual fumes?

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Plagiarized Tory Ad

If political ads were popular songs, the Manitoba NDP would probably be getting ready to sue the Harper Conservatives about now for copyright infringement.

They'd have a great case.

Thankfully for the Conservatives, TV ads aren't songs, and nor are they likely to be as long as royalties are measured in seats in the House of Commons or a provincial legislature instead of dollars and cents.

So the Harperites' spectacular recent act of political plagiarism, in which they cribbed the story line and most of the text of a 2011 Manitoba ad cooked up by an ad agency long associated with NDP causes, is unlikely to do more than create a few ripples of laughter among the political cognoscenti.

Just the same, the Tory rip-off of NOW Group Communications' 2011 job interview ad, wherein an "employer panel" of citizens discusses a "job applicant" who happens to be a Conservative politician from Manitoba, truly does suggest our "strong, stable majority Conservative government" is now running on intellectual fumes.

The effect of viewing the two 30-second spots one after the other -- the pathetic 2015 Harper version of the ad changes the name of the politician in question to Justin Trudeau and alters the punch line from "nice suit, though," to "nice hair," and… uh… that's about it -- is hilarious.

NOW Group was somewhat gracious, headlining their blog post about the appropriation "Deeply flattered, Mr. Harper. Really."

"Whether the Conservative ad will be as effective is another question," the author of the NOW post observed, however. "We believe every campaign is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities. Copying even a highly successful ad (cough, blush) from a previous election isn't necessarily a smart approach."

The problem, as NOW pointed out, is that even if the Tories got it right that Mr. Trudeau isn't ready to run things, someone else is -- to wit, NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Now that the federal NDP seems suddenly to be on something of a roll in the polls -- perhaps related to the fact we now have a "strong, stable NDP government in Alberta," of all places, which we've been taught since we were toddlers was a Conservative preserve -- the Harper government has a problem that this ad may exacerbate.

It's all very well to play both ends against the middle when you have two weak opponents -- this worked for the Liberals under Jean Chretien and it's been working for the Cons under Stephen Harper.

But as any student of history knows, it's always a problem when you find yourself fighting a war on two fronts.

Unfortunately, the rules of modern Canadian political debate preclude mention of the obvious example, but you know who we have in mind.

That's the situation the Harper government now finds itself in, and this small act of thievery may not help at all if its impact is to drive progressive voters to the party led by Mr. Mulcair, who clearly has what it takes to be prime minister.

I have a theory of my own, that if you attack the stronger of your opponents, voters will accept that as reasonable, but if you attack them both, they may start to think you’re as crazy as an outhouse-residing rodent.

So that really leaves us with only one question: Whose ad will the Tories steal to attack Mr. Mulcair? This guy's?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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