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Is ‘Ass’ Too Crass? Opinions in Manitoba’s Political Class Are at an Impasse

August 15, 2019 3:10 PM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Wab Kinew

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks to media at the Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Thursday, March 7, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Opinions are divided on Manitoba’s election campaign trail about whether using “ass” to describe your opponent is run-of-the-mill sass or a term too crass for the political class.

The New Democrats released two videos this week, in advance of the Sept. 10 provincial election, that use the word against Tory Leader Brian Pallister.

Each ad features a woman complaining about the state of health care or the province’s roads. At the end, the actors refer to Pallister and appear to say “what an ass,” although the end of the final word is drowned out by an ambulance siren or street traffic. Subtitles in videos on the NDP’s Youtube channel spell the word “a–.”

Pallister, who is running for his second term as premier, was not amused.

“The ads are not only in poor taste but a sign of desperation by the NDP,” Pallister said Thursday.

“Two days ago, Mr. Kinew and the NDP said they were going to run a high-road, principled campaign … a day later they released ads that I haven’t seen in Manitoba political history — personal attack ads.”

Christopher Adams, adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said attack ads are common — leaders have faced accusations of being “risky” or of harbouring secret plans to privatize public services — but name-calling is unusual in the province.

“I haven’t seen this before,” Adams said.

“If you go back into the Cold War, there were labels of socialist and communist … but I have not seen actual name-calling of a leader in any advertising in my memory.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the ads are justified.

“Coming from a position as Opposition, we’ve got to do some things to get noticed,” Kinew said.

“If we have a little fun here, and people start talking about the issues that we’re focused on — health care, fixing the roads, creating more jobs in the process — then that’s part of campaigning.”

The Tories have taken out a series of attack ads against Kinew, minus similar name-calling. The ads focus on his past convictions for assaulting a cabbie and impaired driving, for which Kinew has since received record suspensions.

One Tory ad also mentions a 2003 charge of domestic assault that Kinew faced. It was stayed by the Crown a year later. The woman who filed the complaint said in media interviews in 2017 that Kinew threw her across the couple’s living room during an argument, leaving her with severe rug burns.

“I’ve been under attack through negative ads for months at this point,” Kinew said.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the NDP’s name-calling was offside.

“The quality of debate is bad enough in Manitoba … the fact is this is not helpful or productive,” he said.

Thursday was a relatively quiet day on the campaign trail.

The Liberals promised new medicare coverage for mental health, including clinical psychology. Lamont said a Liberal government would also cover psychological assessments and treatments for children with learning and behavioural disabilities at a cost of over $20 million a year.

“There are a lot of people who just can’t afford psychological counselling. It is truly the case that we have a two-tier system in Manitoba and in most of Canada.”

The Tories promised to build 13 new schools over 10 years if they are re-elected. The price tag, which also covers seven other schools already being designed or built, is roughly $500 million, the party said.

The NDP pledged to open more personal care-home beds, starting with an 80-bed, $21-million expansion to an existing home in the Transcona neighbourhood in east Winnipeg.

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