Ads, #BarbaricCulturalPractices and Ford: Harper campaign hurt by self-inflicted wounds, poll finds

The Conservatives’ own ads, Stephen Harper’s appearance with Rob Ford and the pledge to introduce a “Barbaric Cultural Practices” tip line all did more to drive voters away than to attract them to the Tories, according to a new poll.

Harper’s appearance with Rob Ford at an Etobicoke rally just two days before voting day resulted in a net loss of 33% support among accessible “soft” voters, the Innovative research group poll found.

The Conservative advertisements, which mostly attacked opponents, were responsible for a net loss 26% support among the same voter group.

The Tories’ pledge to establish a tip line for reporting “barbaric cultural practices” to the RCMP, resulted in a net loss of 2% among soft voters.

This is in contrast to Harper’s stance on the niqab, which resulted in a net gain of 23% support among the accessible voters, suggesting that the Conservative campaign had driven the wedge too far with the tip line which was widely derided online prompting the hashtag #BarbaricCulturalPractices.

“The turning point for me was you promoted the ‘barbaric cultural practices hotline’ and kept calling the new prime minister elect by his first name,” a supporter wrote on outgoing Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander’s wall. “For a person of your calibre this was very disappointing.”

Alexander lost Ontario’s Ajax riding to Liberal Mark Holland.

“The Barbarian Tip line was the last straw,” media personality Adam Sterling tweeted. “All the other disparate groups Harper had fomented resentment against before united.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra, who lost Ontario’s Markham–Stouffville to Liberal Jane Philpott, admitted that the focus on identity politics was a mistake that cost the party votes.

“You know, individually, taken in isolation … if you could spend five minutes at the door explaining Bill C-24, explaining why you needed to remove the niqab at a citizenship ceremony, explaining what we meant by ‘barbaric,’ if you could do that, then you could turn a voter,” Calandra, who became famous for his tearful apology after having replied to a question from former leader of the opposition Thomas Mulcair on Canada’s mission in Iraq with an unrelated antisemitism accusation against an NDP fundraiser, said in a CBC interview. “But in the context of, you know, 10 days left in an election — it was just people saying ‘Look, we’re not ready to endorse that yet, we want to go back to a pre-C-24 status quo.’”

This online survey of 2,874 Canadians was conducted from October 20 to October 23, 2015.