Why leave it up to the media to decide who won a debate when you can buy the front of a newspaper to claim victory yourself?
That’s the thinking behind what’s quickly becoming a common practice in Canadian election campaigns. On Wednesday, both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats bought wrap ads in daily papers to declare themselves the winner of the previous night’s debate.
The NDP, who bought the front of Metro, declared “Horwath leads” over a photo of their leader surrounded by cheering supporters and the results of a preferred-premier poll by Ipsos Reid that showed her in front.
The Tories did them one better. Not only did the front cover of 24 Hours declare Mr. Hudak’s “laser-like focus” had won the debate, it also contained no fewer than four separate throws to non-existent stories attacking the Liberal Party on gas plants, tax hikes, MaRS and a possible coalition with the NDP.
This not-so-subtle technique made waves a year ago when B.C. Premier Christy Clark used it to dub herself “the comeback kid” following a debate. Former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter tried it out last fall.
And Ms. Horwath bought the front of the Toronto Sun last month in a bid to reach its traditionally blue-collar readership in the inner suburbs – a demographic the NDP is targeting hard.
So far, the technique’s effectiveness is as debatable as its ethics. Ms. Clark did, indeed, win a comeback victory over the heavily-favoured NDP. But Mr. Dexter was less fortunate, falling to third place and losing his own seat.
Whether it works or not, the ads seem unlikely to go away anytime soon. Newspapers need revenue as much as parties need votes.