22
Sep
Celebrity Endorsement

The Politics of Celebrity Endorsements in #elxn42

As the marathon campaign continues, the federal parties are increasingly going to new lengths to attract attention amongst voters – especially as polls still have the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democrats running neck-and-neck. During the past week, we’ve seen parties go beyond their typical voter outreach; while attack ads and lawn signs have made their way into the narrative, celebrity voices have made their voting preferences clear.

While celebrity endorsements are typically related to American politics, all three parties are welcoming them with open arms. Here are the celebrity endorsements that we’ve seen thus far:

Conservative

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are happy to have the support of the star of Canada’s national pastime, ‘The Great One’ himself – Wayne Gretzky. Announced at a Toronto rally, Harper and Gretzky played a game of table hockey and sat down in a pair of easy chairs. Gretzky offered his endorsement to Harper, calling him an “unreal Prime Minister.” Easily one of the most valued endorsements in the Canadian sporting world, Conservatives were quick to share this endorsement, taking to the airwaves and social media.

NDP

While the Toronto International Film Festival took over the city’s media spotlight, the red carpet wasn’t just used for film. Actor Donald Sutherland repeatedly urged Canadians to remove Stephen Harper from government; he wrote a column in The Globe and Mail chastising the government for removing the right to vote from those living abroad, and has been a long-time champion of the NDP.

While NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has been positioning the NDP as a moderate choice, a number of celebrities have backed a more radical, left-leaning call to action: the ‘Leap Manifesto.’ Led by activist Naomi Klein and signed by dozens of prominent NDP backers, the Manifesto calls for the federal government to eradicate dependence on fossil fuels in as little as 35 years, and essentially, upend the entire capitalist economy of Canada. While these backers claim that the manifesto isn’t pro-NDP, the sheer number of NDP signatories may reflect on the party in the days ahead. In the end, it may serve to remind voters just how left-leaning some NDP members are.

Liberal

Typically, the Liberal Party has been the recipient of most celebrity endorsements; ranging from Bono’s relationship with former Prime Minister Paul Martin, to the ringing endorsement from John Lennon to former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Liberals have been the Canadian favourites among celebrities.

While Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have yet to announce a typical ‘celebrity’ backer, they may have done one better in Southern Ontario. Former Mississauga Mayor ‘Hurricane’ Hazel McCallion has offered Trudeau her support, noting that he would be an excellent fit for the Greater Toronto Area.

The real question is this: do celebrity endorsements matter in Canadian politics? While all parties have been the recipient of endorsements during campaigns, their effect is still unknown. While they may be a good news ‘hook’ for the media, there is little proof to suggest that Gretzky’s endorsement will give the Conservatives an extra push, or that the ‘Leap Manifesto’ will be detrimental to the NDP. With four more weeks to go, only time will tell!