UCP campaign ads strike a neutral “governmental” tone as election season heats up

By Catherine Griwkowsky January 16, 2019

Political scientist Duane Bratt says the UCP’s two latest television campaign ads aim to reform the party’s “image problem.”
The ads, which dropped on social media late Sunday evening, showcase diverse members of the UCP’s candidate team, including several women of colour, reciting the party’s new “Alberta Strong and Free” slogan alongside a smiling Jason Kenney.
“By having visible minorities, having women front and centre, that highlights, or tries to deal with, a perceived problem the party has,” the Mount Royal University professor and chair of its Department of Economics, Justice and Policy Studies told AB Today.
“It’s been said that there are more men named Richard in the caucus than there are women,” Bratt added.
In the ad, Kenney offers up a big-tent vision for the UCP, saying, “This is the province of fresh starts and new beginnings where we believe in respect for everybody and where we assess people on how hard they work and [contribute to their communities].”
In one ad, Tanya Fir, the UCP candidate for Calgary—Peigan, thanks Kenney for inspiring her to join politics.
Bratt notes that the ads strike a neutral tone and refrain from attacking the NDP —  an advertising mode more often used by a governing party than by an official opposition.
“It’s almost like the UCP believes it’s going to win the election anyway,” Bratt said.
The ads also avoid making any campaign promises — the UCP has been mum on a lot of its policy plans, often telling reporters to wait for the release of its platform rather than weighing in on the issues of the day.
“It was a series of very bland and generic slogans,” Bratt said. “Part of those, though, is what they’re tying into the psyche.”
The phrase “Alberta advantage” is repeated in the ads, a harkening back to the province’s conservative heyday during the Ralph Klein years.
The UCP’s new slogan, “Alberta Strong and Free,” is a double entendre. It both echoes a line from Canada’s national anthem — a notable salute to national unity at at time when calls for an Alberta secession have resurfaced — and serves as a translation of the provincial motto “fortis et liber.”’
Edmonton—West Henday UCP candidate Nicole Williams, who is not featured in the ads, told AB Today she considers the campaign to be “really positive and hopeful.”
“It’s something that’s going to appeal to a lot of Albertans,” Williams said.
The UCP has no shortage of funds for advertising — the party announced Thursday it raised $5.7 million in 2018, on top of the $1.4 million it generated in membership sales.
According to the party, $3.9 million of that was raised in the fourth quarter alone.