Stephen Harper Thinks You’re Stupid: Yet Another Reason

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Yharperou know it’s a rough day for the prime minister when the Sun News Network demonstrates they aren’t always a Fox News North Conservative Party lapdog by calling them on the Economic Action Plan lunacy.

If you wonder why lots of people don’t vote, it’s in part because they think governments think we’re stupid.

Running Economic Action Plan ads polls poorly. The populace thinks it’s spin. And now Sun News decided to do some simple journalism to assess whether it’s truly a shadow masquerading as an authentic…something…plan, even?

The bottom line is that governments often think we’re just stupid. We will accept these ads. We will express in polls that we think the ads are spin. We will then do nothing when they continue.

In the end, maybe Stephen Harper is right to think we’re stupid.

Here’s a hint for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canadians expect their government to have an economic plan.

They don’t need to be reminded of it, ad nauseam, for four years, via a series of commercials that have cost them $113 million so far, with no end in sight.

The latest $29,000 government poll on the government’s Economic Action Plan (EAP), bringing the total cost of polling on it to $330,000, found almost no one is paying attention anymore.

The Harris-Decima survey completed in the spring, found of 2003 Canadians surveyed, three — count ’em, three — visited the government’s website.

Only 6% of those who recalled seeing television ads promoting the plan took action because of them, and nine of them said the only action they took was to complain.

According to The Canadian Press, which obtained the poll through an access to information request, that’s the worst response rate for any government advertising campaign.

Indeed, the survey didn’t report on anyone calling the government toll-free number — 1-800-O-Canada — featured in television commercials promoting the EAP.

(When we called that number, a polite receptionist referred us to the ministry of finance website, explaining she didn’t have a direct phone line for the EAP, nor was she aware of the website, which we told her about.)

Previous surveys about the EAP — mandatory under government rules intended to ensure, ironically, that taxpayers are getting good value for their money — have found similarly high levels of public apathy and even hostility to the ads.

– from Harper should scrap economic plan ads

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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4 thoughts on “Stephen Harper Thinks You’re Stupid: Yet Another Reason”

  1. The Liberal Party used advertising agencies to launder money and benefit insiders. Maybe the Conservative Party admired that system and put it into action for their own rewards.

  2. I’m starting to think we’re all missing the point. Yes, Canadians expect their governments to have an economic plan. So why would this government need to spend millions of dollars and stacks of energy hullaballooing the idea that they have one?

    Because they don’t. Come on, this is the Cons we’re talking about here. They don’t go around spending millions of dollars saying things that are true. These ads aren’t popular, but they do leave people, even people who never see one of the ads and just read articles about how stupid the ads are, with the impression that the Conservatives do have such a thing as an economic plan. That’s what they’re for, to reinforce that basic sense that Conservatives are people interested in economic stewardship.

    Of course in reality, the Conservatives have no economic plan for the country, for at least three reasons. The first reason is that near as I can figure it, the top Cons are incompetent managers. They were selected for aggressive and unethical but pack-oriented, willing to submit tamely to the top dog and parrot the party line no matter what it was, while fiercely attacking outsiders. They were not selected for smarts or ability to manage a cabinet portfolio.
    The second reason is that right wing ideology theoretically claims that one shouldn’t actually have an economic plan. The whole point is “laissez faire”; “planned” economies are verboten, right? The markets and the private sector will provide. But while talk about free markets may play well with the public if only because it gets so much free media amplification, government actually doing nothing about anything because of their learned helplessness does not play so well with the public no matter what spin you put on it. So they need to look like they have a plan.
    The third reason is that right wing, what I might call deep ideology, believes in plans in a way–but not plans for the economy of the actual country. The Conservatives believe in economic action plans for the oil barons and the bankers and a few other selected billionaires, and genuine economic plans for the development of the country as a whole would get in the way of that.

    So the Cons do not and cannot have an economic action plan. That’s why they have to spend so much energy gabbing about the mirage of one.

  3. .. is there a breakdown on the 113 million ? I can’t recall..
    surely Tony (Panayi) Clement can clarify from the riding where his cottage is located.. which he represents as a federal MP .. Parry Sound – Muskoka

    — my breakdown

    – Consultants, RFP’s, Shortlist of Vendors, Campaign is awarded
    – Ad Agency Concepts, storyboards, pre-production budgets etc
    – Production costs of ads, scripts, talent, shoots etc
    – Post-Production costs, video edit, graphics, actors, narration
    – Media Buy Budget, how many times ads were aired, what network, costs?

    Its quite possible the RFP’s (Request for Proposals) or RFQ’s (Request for Quotes) identified a budget of approx 1 million for concept, management, design and creation of ads.. with the actual media buy.. for TV air time and newspaper and web insertion & radio as TBA (To Be Announced)

    OK .. let’s say the Ad Agency that won the bid process quoted on a 3 million dollar award.. for concept, design and production..
    That implies 110 million has been spent on media buys ..
    and a percentage of that certainly went to ongoing agency ‘management’ of the account.. ie booking the media buys ..

    I understand its an open end media buy right now.. being managed by an Advertising Agency on behalf of The Harper Government & Canadian taxpayers. Someone in the government (PMO ? Finance ?) deals directly with the Ad Agency on a weekly or daily basis. At this point, they simply contact the account manager and cc the media buyer.

    Who is/was/continues to be actually in charge of the ‘program’ or campaign if thats what they call it. Who approved it.. ? Stephen Harper must have ‘heard about it in the news media by now’. He’s commented on it an defended it.

    Perhaps better said, who gets fired.. or decides to cease and desist re a deceitful propaganda nonsense fairy tale campaign that is now more damaging to votes and perceptions than helpful. Is that Stephen Harper ? Ray Novak ? Where is the Minister of Labour on this Lisa Raitt ? What can Jim Flaherty offer as rationale or clarity ? Hello Tony Clement ? Is anybody in there ?

    Does the Economic Action Plan as a campaign smell familiar to this ?

    (from Wikipedia) ‘The official title of this inquiry was the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities. In the end the Commission concluded that $2 million was awarded in contracts without a proper bidding process, $250,000 was added to one contract price for no additional work, and $1.5 million was awarded for work that was never done, of which $1 million had to be repaid. The overall operating cost of the Commission was $14 million.

    In the national spotlight, the scandal became a significant factor in the lead-up to the 2006 federal election when, after more than twelve years in power, the Liberals were defeated by the Conservatives, who formed a minority government that was sworn in February 2006’

    – Harper –

    – Flaherty –

    – Rick Mercer –

    – Wikipedia – ‘As President of the Treasury Board and part of the Conservative Party of Canada’s election platform, Clement has been tasked with leading a government-wide spending review and is also spearheading broader cost containment changes within government.’

  4. Have you noticed, Stephen, the miniscule role that policy played in Harper’s vanquishing of Dion and Ignatieff? How did he win those elections, how did he get his majority? How did he prevail despite all his blunders and the near constant scandal that has surrounded his government?

    Now ask yourself this. How did Christy Clark pull off the very same triumph with the deplorable reputation of the BC Libs and their massive problems with corruption and scandals?

    What Harper did, and Clark emulated so successfully, was to quickly turn the election from an evaluation of policies and record into a referendum on some dodgy opposition leader. Harper mauled Dion. Harper mauled Ignatieff. Clark mauled Dix.

    Harper doesn’t worry much about scandal or policy but why should he?

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