One of these things is just like the other

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Sask Party and NDP campaign ads almost identical

Jonathan Petrychyn
A&C Editor

There isn’t as much of a difference between the Saskatchewan Party and the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party as one might think.

I’m not talking about policy. We’re only a few days into the campaign, and it’s difficult to get a sense of the differences in policy between the two parties.

But when it comes to campaign ads, the two parties are nearly indistinguishable from each other.

The Saskatchewan Party’s “Today in Saskatchewan” ads make an obvious effort to present Saskatchewan in as idyllic a light as possible. A soft calming, yet inspiring, musical soundtrack plays over the images of almost exclusively white, middle class Saskatchewanians working in what the Saskatchewan Party deems “respectable” jobs: industry, medicine, business, manufacturing, and construction.

The ad almost ignores racial, sexual, and class minorities, presenting nuclear families as the sort of ideal that all of Saskatchewan has strived for and should continue to strive for.

Also, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of education (and why would they after the debacle the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation strike was?) or the arts or any non-traditional economy-growing jobs.

Really, these ads are just really good at presenting the status quo as positively as possible.

Enter “Too Negative.”

Again, the ad opens up with the suggestion that the status quo is doing really well in today’s Saskatchewan. The narrator softly says, “There’s a positive new attitude today in Saskatchewan”, over a nice image of people walking in a non-descript park.

The narrator then poses the question: “So why would we want a leader as negative as Dwain Lingenfelter?”, and all of a sudden we enter a horror film.

If “Today in Saskatchewan” was to paint an idyllic picture of Saskatchewan, “Too Negative”, attempts to show what Saskatchewan would look like under the leadership of Dwain Lingenfelter: a barren, brown landscape ripped straight from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The ad makes a deliberate effort to remove itself from the more positive “Today in Saskatchewan” ads. While the colour scheme of “Today in Saskatchewan” focuses on golds and greens – Saskatchewan Party colours, no less – “Too Negative” is painted almost entirely in brown and black colour scheme.

Eerie, high-pitched strings permeate the rest of the ad as images and videos of Lingenfelter in menacing positions are placed on a dirty brown and black wall. Lingenfelter is the ad’s Leatherface: a nasty villain bent on turning Saskatchewan into his playground, with negative consequences.

That being said though, the ad is almost comical in that an incredibly unflattering photo of Lingenfelter stays on the right side of the screen as videos of Link speaking negatively flash next to it. You essentially get two images of Link on the screen at once, and it’s all together weird and slightly comical if you’re in the right mood.

The NDP, however, don’t really offer much of an alternative with their three ads. The party is in a different position than the Saskatchewan Party in that they don’t have the previous four years of government record to fall back on.

It would logically follow, then, that the NDP’s ads should spend time calling into question the decisions of the Saskatchewan Party government, right?

Turns out, though, that the NDP doesn’t really have a whole lot to say about what the current government has done, and instead focuses on its own goals. This approach would be fine, but when there is no clear demarcation between the ads of the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP, you almost wonder why they wouldn’t go out with a little more force.

“People Caring About People” and “Bright Futures” are quite literally the same ad. “Bright Futures” is essentially a flash animation slideshow that uses stills from “People Caring About People.” But more than that, they’re incredibly positive ads, presenting a slightly more diverse Saskatchewan than the Saskatchewan Party, but still presenting a Saskatchewan that seems altogether positive.

And if it’s the goal of the Official Opposition to question the decisions of current government, shouldn’t the ads reflect that instead of just falling into complacency?

Their most recent ad, “A Healthy Boom”, attempts to take issue with Saskatchewan Party policy, and is almost successful. However, the ad replaces human images with orange animations, which comes to its detriment, presenting an ad that looks hip and modern but is cold and lifeless.

And perhaps that was the goal: the advertisement cannot present images of doctors and nurses, and has to resort to cartoon images because there are no doctors and nurses in Saskatchewan. But in the end, the ad doesn’t well up a sense of Saskatchewan pride, or cause me to seriously question the government, and really just becomes nothing more than pretty pictures. 

So when it comes down to it, neither party is making a huge effort to differentiate themselves from the other. The aesthetics of the ads, with the exception of “Too Negative” and “A Healthy Boom”, are essentially identical. Perhaps this is just a symptom of Saskatchewan politics today. We have two political parties vying for government, but neither of them have attempted to present themselves as markedly different from each other.

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