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Attack ads surface as parties try to frame election issues

As polls reveal the top issues for British Columbians in the upcoming election, both the NDP and Liberal endorsers are trying to target issues with attack ads.

"Both parties are poll driven and focus group driven and of course they live and die by those methods," Dennis Pilon, assistant professor at the University of Victoria’s political science department, told The Hook.

One day apart, both the NDP and Liberal endorsers, VoteSmart BC, released ad campaigns on issues that Angus Reid Strategies ranked as some of most important to British Columbians.

36 per cent of British Columbians feel the economy is the most important issue facing B.C., while 19 per cent say crime is, according to the report.

The VoteSmart BC ad campaign focuses on the NDP in the '90s, flashing headlines that read "NDP blamed for job losses" and "B.C. Economy on a downward slide." The ad also states the NDP has no economic experience and no economic plan.

A day earlier, the NDP released a new ad campaign on crime in B.C., saying the Liberal government has closed 24 courthouses and 10 jails. The ad also accuses the Liberals of planning further cuts to B.C.’s justice system by getting rid of prosecutors, courts and correction facilities.

"Both parties are gearing up," said Pilon. "They're going to try and pace their spending, they know a lot of people still haven't woken up to the fact that an election is coming."

Pilon touched on the fact both parties are trying to "frame the discussion" before the May 12th election.

"[Parties] cannot afford to allow their opponents to start framing the election early," Pilon said. "Those who get out of the gate early can frame discussion and once discussion is framed, once the ballot question is decided, it can be very hard to get away from that."

He also indicated that these campaign ads are setting the tone for the election, saying both parties are running on the faults of the opposition rather than describing their own plans.

"They're attack ads, they're not ads putting forward their own message, they're saying, 'don't vote for the other person,'" Pilon said. Voters should be ready to see more of these ads in the coming weeks, he added.

"These things are used for a reason, because they work."

Morgan J. Modjeski is a reporter for The Hook.

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