We’ve all heard that “A picture is worth a thousand words”—but when it comes to politics and campaigns, a picture can cost a candidate an election. Political operatives spend hours painstakingly going over every element of a campaign, planning out each pose and looking at all the angles. They work tirelessly to cast their candidate in the best light, but sometimes the most thought-out campaign stop or rehearsed debate leads your candidate to be known as the “cheese factory hairnet guy.”
Over the years, there have been iconic campaign photos that will live on in infamy—making and breaking political careers. Here are our top picks for most iconic campaign photos.
Source: Iconic Photos
In the midst of the 1974 election campaign, Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield reached for a moment of levity, playing a game of catch with campaign staff. After securing a number of passes, photographer Doug Ball snapped Stanfield fumbling one. The drop—coupled with Stanfield’s unflattering stance—landed on the following day’s Globe and Mail front page. Unfortunately for Stanfield, it would prove to not be the only defining drop of the election—the Tory-seat tally declined by 11 and Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals scored a touchdown with their third consecutive government.
Source: CBC Archives
During a visit to a Quebec cheese factory in the 1997 election campaign, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe donned a translucent white hairnet. The choice—while certainly reassuring to cheese eaters and sanitation inspectors alike—proved to be a disastrous image for the Bloc campaign. Duceppe was skewered in both French and English media. The hairnet became a defining element of how many Canadians outside Quebec perceived the Bloc leader. The Bloc lost 10 seats in Duceppe’s first election at the helm, losing the title of official Opposition to Preston Manning’s Reform Party. A warning to all candidates—we’ll be keeping an eye out for cheesy photos this election.
Source: CBC Archives
Progressive Conservatives—under new leader Kim Campbell—were fighting an uphill battle in the polls from the outset of the 1993 election campaign, after forming two consecutive majority governments. Seeking to sour voters on the Liberal leader, the PC produced two short television ads featuring a series of close-up photographs of Jean Chrétien’s face. The ads were widely criticized for the perception it was mocking the Liberal leader’s facial deformity. Chrétien capitalized on the criticism, delivering a heartfelt speech and quipping “I speak on one side of my mouth. I’m not a Tory, I don’t speak on both sides.”
Source: Ted Grant
At the 1968 Liberal leadership convention in Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, photojournalist Ted Grant captured Pierre Trudeau sliding down a banister with both arms extended in the air. The image would come to symbolize a lively leader who was later photographed pirouetting behind the Queen—twice.
Source: Globe and Mail
Before the 1993 election call, Jean Chrétien took some time off over the Canada Day long weekend at a lake. He was photographed on one water ski, cutting a fine wake and looking thrilled. The picture was splashed over front-pages across the country and left Canadians with the impression of a youthful, athletic leader, setting the stage for the Liberal party’s dominance at the polls the following October. And he didn’t stop there…
Source: CTV News
Bonus: Move over NDP, we see Chrétien riding a wave and crushing it. In 2013, 79-year-old Chrétien outdid himself, learning how to kitesurf in North Carolina. Ride the wave, sir!
Source: Huffington Post
Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day hit rough waters when he faced off against Jean Chrétien’s Liberals in 2000. Several months after securing leadership of the new Canadian Alliance party, Day successfully ran in a by-election in the riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla. He arrived to the subsequent press conference driving a jet ski and outfitted in a wetsuit. The stunt missed the mark. Day would go on to lose the election, despite polling well in the last weeks of the campaign.
In perhaps the most significant moment of a televised Canadian debate, Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney pointed accusingly at then-prime minister John Turner and criticized a series of appointments that had been made in the final days of Pierre Trudeau’s leadership. The new Liberal leader demurred to the line of attack, offering that he had “no choice.” Mulroney, who would build upon this pivotal moment on his way to forming a majority government, retorted famously “you had an option, sir.”
Source: Georgia Straight
After facing prostate cancer and a hip surgery, Jack Layton returned to campaigning in 2011 energetic and sporting a new cane. The cane would go on to become a symbol of the leader’s tireless efforts on the campaign trail and ultimately of the 2011 election itself. Although the Conservative party under Stephen Harper received its first majority mandate, the NDP surged to 103 seats from 37. The seat-sweep resoundingly surpassed the NDP’s previous best of 43 seats and formed the official Opposition for the first time. On election night, Layton brandished the cane as a trophy, waving it above his head in front of an audience of cheering supporters.
Source: Reason Partners
After a two-year term leading a minority government, the Conservatives sought a majority mandate in the 2008 election. The party released a television ad spot featuring the prime minister at home in 24 Sussex, discussing the importance of family while wearing a blue sweater vest. Critics and online commenters immediately picked up on the image and used the sweater vest as a means of mocking the prime minister. During a nationally televised leaders’ debate, NDP leader Jack Layton sharply mocked the prime minister, asking “Where’s your platform? Under the sweater?” Harper’s Conservatives would eventually increase their seat total by 19, though fell short of forming a much-coveted majority government.
Source: Vancouver Observer
This time around, Stephen Harper dropped the sweater vest in favour of cat’s pajamas. While it was not revealed during an election, Harper has a well-known affinity for cats and kittens. Images of the prime minister covered in kittens have frequently made the rounds on the Internet and offer a stark contrast to a usually somber and serious demeanor. It remains to be seen how this controversial cat-over-dog stance will play with the voting public in the 2015 election.
Source: Huffington Post
At a 1984 campaign event, then-deputy prime minister Jean Chrétien was photographed by Globe and Mail photographer Edward Regan wearing an apron emblazoned with “WE ROAST TORIES!” Though giving the Tories a good ribbing, the fiery apron was no crystal ball in that election—Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives would go on to win their first of two consecutive majority mandates.