The Conservative Party of Canada recently released an attack ad targeting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau that includes a series of ISIS propaganda photos of hostages before their executions.
Followed by these images is a caption reading: “Justin Trudeau’s response? Trudeau says Liberals would stop bombing ISIS.”
“[The ad] has this dual function of, on one hand, attempting to mute the Liberal gain, or at least getting people to reconsider them,” said David Moscrop, Ph.D. candidate in the department of political science. “And on the other hand, re-enforcing what the Conservatives are trying to establish, which is this narrative of Trudeau being weak on terrorism.”
The decision to use terrorist propaganda as a campaigning tool has been controversial amongst viewers. According to Moscrop, when ISIS propaganda is used in an attack ad it draws attention to the terrorist group's cause.
“It’s outlandish to say the Conservatives are supporting the terrorists,” said Moscrop. “That’s clearly not what they’re doing. What they are doing is indirectly contributing to this subculture of fear that ISIS and other terrorist have tried to establish.”
It has been suggested that the release of this video violates the government’s new C-51 legislation, which gives judges the “power to order the seizure of terrorist propaganda or, if the propaganda is in electronic form, to order the deletion of the propaganda from a computer system.”
However Richard Johnston, UBC political science professor, does not believe it violates political advertising laws.
“In terms of its content, I don’t think a court of law would find anything illegal in it,” said Johnston. “It is a particularly vicious negative ad, but negative ads are part of political advertising and it is not just the Conservatives that use them.”
Moscrop believes the ad will not be effective for the party going forward.
“What negative ads do is call partisanship into question and try to get people to reconsider their partisanship,” said Moscrop. “If the Conservatives are able to do that with Justin Trudeau, then they would be successful. But if you push it too far, people get disgusted with you as a party. I think this one went too far, it was poor taste and a little too extreme.”
Johnston speculated that the ad could have some negative consequences for the Conservatives.
"This might actually be a risky one for the Conservatives. It might actually remind some voters that the Conservatives are for the use of force and turn some people off.”