The Ontario government’s latest salvo against the federal carbon tax is being mocked online for appearing to accidentally promote the very cause it hoped to attack.
Political observers and social media users say the television ad prepared by the Progressive Conservative government, a vocal opponent of the tax that came into effect on April 1, missed the mark.
While a narrator cooly lists ways in which the province contends the carbon tax would raise prices on everything from gas to groceries, images show cascades of change pouring out of air vents, fuel pumps and store shelves.
When one economics professor and regular political commentator questioned whether the brains behind the ad had troubled to watch it on mute, a staffer with the federal Liberals took it upon himself to prepare an alternative.
His parody featured a pro-carbon tax voiceover synced up with the identical images that feature in the Ontario attack ad.
“It works great,” Wilfred Laurier University digital communications associate professor Simon Kiss said of the spoof. “The script in the parody is honestly more logical and fits the visuals better than the government’s own ad.”
Kiss noted that the visuals also reinforce a key message carbon tax proponents have been touting, namely that federal rebates would offset if not outright eliminate the financial toll the tax could take on most Canadians.
The Progressive Conservatives did not respond to questions about the reaction to the commercial, which concludes by inviting Ontario residents to become familiar with the government’s climate change plan.
But a spokeswoman for Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips accused the feds of being misleading in their efforts to promote the tax, which was imposed on provinces that had opted not to implement their own efforts to curb carbon emissions.
“They have promoted their plan by mailing postcards to every household in our province, airing radio advertisements and running an extensive online campaign, and on every occasion have failed to disclose the full cost of their carbon tax,” Emily Hogeveen said in a statement.
When asked about the cost of the government’s advertising campaign against the carbon tax, Hogeveen said it would be disclosed at a later date.
Days after the Tories’ ads first hit the airwaves, many social media users were still freely mocking the commercial.
“I filled up today and not one nickel dropped,” wrote one Twitter user. “I brought a bucket to the grocers to catch the money waterfall, but alas, nothing. Maybe file complaints to the CRTC for this misleading advert.”
“This is actually hilarious,” wrote another. “The obvious symbolism would have been, oh, I don’t know, say a vacuum cleaner sucking money out of people’s wallets. How much did the PCs pay the ad agency that came up with this?”
While Kiss said the Ontario government undermined their own message this time around, he suspects the ad won’t do much to shift public opinion one way or another.
“People who have a dim view of the carbon tax, this is just going to kind of reaffirm those prior beliefs,” he said. “And it’s going to just anger people who are on the other side.”
Michelle McQuigge , The Canadian Press