Top five gaffes from previous Canadian elections

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

Most elections do have a defining moment, an instance where the momentum changes and the outcome becomes less unpredictable.

In politics, it often takes the form of an embarrassing moment by a candidate, a gaffe by a federal leader, or a miscalculation by campaign headquarters.

While political junkies eagerly, and sadistically it seems, wait for that 'defining' moment in this campaign, we take a look back at the turning points of elections past:

"I don't understand the question"

One of the momentum changers in the 2008 election was Liberal leader Stephane Dion's interview with CTV where he just couldn't understand a seemingly simple question.

The interview made the well-educated Dion look weak and confused. Watch it below:

The Stanfield fumble:

Robert Stanfield was the Conservative party leader who ran against Pierre Trudeau's Liberals in the 1974 general election.

At a campaign stop in North Bay, Ont., one of Stanfield's aides brought out a football, and started playing catch with the leader.

As the story goes, Stanfield caught several passes that day before fumbling just one.

A picture of the fumble with a "knock-kneed, hands clasped, awkwardly grimacing" Stanfield appeared on the front page of the next day's issue of the Globe and Mail.  It's widely acknowledged the unflattering image cost Stanfield the election.

The Niagara flows south?

Canadian Alliance party leader Stockwell Day's 2000 election campaign was a comedy of errors.  Prior to the campaign he called reporters to a news conference on the shores of Okanagan Lake wearing a tight, unflattering wet suit driving a personal watercraft.

During the campaign, he made himself look even less "prime ministerial."  At an event at Niagara Falls, Day complained Canadian jobs were flowing south just like the Niagara River.  (the Niagara River in fact flows north).

The two blunders dogged him for the entire campaign.

The Chretien attack ad:

Who can forget the infamous Jean Chretien commercial? In the 1993 election, the Progressive Conservatives released a television campaign that appeared to mock Jean Chretien's physical disabilities. Most Canadians were outraged by the attack ad, which subsequently led to the demise of the Tories under Kim Campbell to two seats.

"You had a choice Mr. Turner"

The 1984 was election showdown between Liberal golden boy John Turner and a new charismatic Conservative leader by the name of Brian Mulroney.

This election's turning point came during the leader's debate when Mulroney attacked Turner for allowing patronage appointments by outgoing prime minister Pierre Trudeau to the Senate go ahead before the writ was dropped.

At one point during the televised debate, Mulroney wagged his finger at Turner saying,  "You had a choice Mr. Turner". It was the 'knock-out punch' in the leaders debate and the turning point of the election.

Watch the clip from an episode of CBC's "The Hour"

(Robert Stanfield: CP Photo)