St├ęphane Dion "failed the test of leadership" by allowing 43 pieces of Conservative legislation to pass in the last Parliament, NDP Leader Jack Layton charged Friday in some of his harshest criticism of the Liberal leader.

Speaking in Toronto, Layton said the Liberal leader "stood aside" and let Conservative Leader Stephen Harper "do whatever he wanted" in the House of Commons.

"Listen to Mr. Dion in this election and you wouldn't know that Stephen and St├ęphane are best friends," Layton told a party rally. "But look at how Mr. Dion failed in his job as leader of the official Opposition and you get a different picture."

The New Democrat leader accused Dion of defending the Tories' decision this week not to pressure Canada's banks into passing the full interest rate drop made by the Bank of Canada onto consumers, saying it showed Dion was "on the wrong side."

"He says he wants Canadians to stop Mr. Harper, but Mr. Dion refused to stop Mr. Harper when he had the chance," Layton told a loud crowd of supporters.

"We shouldn't give him our support now, because he'll turn around and can very well do exactly the same thing again."

During the last Parliament, Dion said his party's abstentions and absences from confidence votes were indications of leglislation a future Liberal government would reverse.

Layton again took aim at Dion's Green Shift carbon tax proposal, saying it would place an "unfair" tax burden on Canadian families at a time when they were hurting most.

"Vote for Stephen Harper and you get a leader whose first priority is an enormous tax cut for banks and big oil companies," Layton said.

"Vote for me, and you get a prime minister whose first priority, each and every day, is to look out for everyday working families like yours."

NDP would revive Montreal motor race

Earlier in the day, Layton pledged a New Democratic government would spend tax dollars to bring back the Canadian Grand Prix.

Speaking on the Montreal television show Salut Bonjour, Layton said the event is very important, not just for fans of motor racing, but also to Montreal's economy.

An NDP government would partner with the city and the province of Quebec to help restore the event to the motor racing calendar.

Local organizers announced earlier this week that the Montreal Grand Prix would be dropped from the Formula One calendar in 2009 over a "commercial disagreement" with the sport's governing body, Federation International l'Automobile (FIA).

The organizers, Grand Prix F1 Canada, have said they are close to $30 million in debt and cannot afford to stage the race over climbing fee requests from the FIA.

They have said they are not interested in promoting the race in the future.

On Thursday, Paul Wilson, vice-president of marketing for Grand Prix F1 Canada, said in an interview with CBC News that government support would be needed if the race were to return to Montreal.

Premier Jean Charest said on Thursday any intervention by the Quebec government to save the Canadian Grand Prix would be conditional on taxpayers seeing economic benefits.

The Grand Prix brings an estimated $100 million per year in revenues and economic spinoffs to the city.

With files from the Canadian Press