Stéphane Dion caused confusion Friday when he said the Liberals' Green Shift plan was never the party's central election campaign plank.
"You have said it was, but never me," the Liberal leader told reporters in Manitoba.
He later called the Green Shift the "foundation" of his policy upon which all others are built.
The Conservative campaign was quick to pounce on the first comment on its party website, featuring the infamous photograph of Dion shrugging alongside the question "What Green Shift?"
The Tories have waged relentless attacks on the plan, which would balance a new carbon tax with income-tax cuts.
Dion introduced the Green Shift plan in mid-June to much fanfare. Then days before the Sept. 7 election call, he adjusted it with a total of $900 million aimed at helping farmers, truckers and fishermen adapt to the plan.
"I gather he doesn't want to talk about the carbon tax; he doesn't want to talk about his Green Shift anymore," Harper said at a campaign event in Montreal. "He's shifting his Shift."
When NDP Leader Jack Layton was asked what he thought of Dion's comment, he said: "He's known that the approach he's taking is not the best one and doesn't work. He's always known that.
"Now, he's coming to terms with it in the middle of an election campaign."
Shift compared to hated 1980 energy program
Dion made the statement at a campaign event in Headingley, a community west of Winnipeg, where he pledged $1.2 billion in green funding for farmers.
The man whose farm served as the backdrop for Dion's announcement commented to reporters that he had difficulty understanding the Liberal proposal and wished the party would back away from it.
Later, the Liberal leader was on the defensive again as he toured neighbouring Saskatchewan, where Premier Brad Wall has vociferously criticized the Green Shift as a plan that could deflate the province's energy-related economic boom.
The leader of the Saskatchewan Party, the province's conservative party, compared the Green Shift to Pierre Trudeau's controversial National Energy Program introduced in 1980.
His comparison echoed statements by the federal Conservatives as well as the conservative advocacy group the National Citizens Coalition.
The old energy program still sparks fury among many Western Canadians.
The policy, introduced in the wake of the 1970s energy crises, aimed to boost Canadian ownership in the oil industry, make the country a self-sufficient oil producer and increase the federal share of energy revenue.
It included a tax to fund the federal government's gas company and gave grants to Canadian-owned oil companies. Western provinces were furious about the NEP, seeing it as a federal intrusion on provincial matters aimed at making the province less wealthy.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the Green Shift was never the party's central election campaign plank, but in addition to what was originally reported, he also stated that the Green Shift was the foundation of all his policies.Oct 08, 2008 5:05 PM ET