Goodale Says Liberal Leaders Won’t Be ‘Twisting in the Wind’ by Attack Ads

Canada’s once-dominant Liberal Party will need the capacity to fund advertisements that can respond to political attacks outside of election campaigns and develop a simpler message on the economy in order to return to power, its deputy leader said.

“We need to have a clearer message about the economy; clearer, simple, straightforward,” Ralph Goodale, who was first elected to Parliament in 1974, said in a Bloomberg News interview in Ottawa. “And we need to have the wherewithal to drive that message home in terms of campaign and in terms of pre-campaign financing.”

The Liberals, who governed consecutively between 1993 and 2006, suffered their worst electoral defeat in May 2 elections that saw Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper win a majority of seats in the House of Commons and the New Democratic Party take over as the largest opposition party.

Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was handcuffed by a lack of money to counter pre-election Conservative advertisements that portrayed him as a foreign elitist with few links to Canada, Goodale said. The ads claimed Ignatieff, who lived outside of Canada for 34 years before returning in 2005 to enter politics, was “just visiting” the country.

Ignatieff was running his first campaign since taking over in May 2009 from Stephane Dion, who had been the first Liberal leader in a century who didn’t become prime minister and who was also the target of Conservative negative advertising.

“We should never in the future face the circumstance where our leader is left twisting in the wind without the resources to fight back,” Goodale said in an interview.

Interim Leader

Bob Rae, a former New Democratic Party premier of Ontario, was chosen as interim Liberal leader until the party selects a new chief in 2013.

Goodale’s party was reduced to 34 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, down from the 77 in the 2008 election. In the 2000 election, they held 172 of 301 seats. The Liberal seat total and share of the vote this year -- 19 percent -- were the lowest since Canada was founded in 1867, after the party that had either won or finished second in all of Canada’s 41 general elections.

The Liberals raised C$25.7 million ($26.1 million) from individuals between 2007 and 2010, according to data from Elections Canada, compared with C$73.3 billion raised by the Conservative Party over that time.

Goodale, who was finance minister under former Prime Minister Paul Martin, also said in the interview Harper’s “monotone” insistence on government spending cuts may undermine the economy.

The ruling Conservatives plan to bring the federal government back into surplus by 2014 by reducing government spending by C$4 billion ($4.1 billion) annually.

“There are a number of very strategic, critical items where investments need to be made in order to foster growth in jobs,” Goodale said. “You won’t get over this hump if all you do is cut because you could end up actually doing yourself damage.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net; David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net.

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