Canada's major parties launched their campaigns Sunday after Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament, setting the country on the road to an Oct. 14 vote.
Harper is in a new position, fighting his first election as prime minister rather than as opposition leader.
That gives him a record to run on, and he made the point in Quebec City, where the party launched its campaign.
"Canadians will choose between this government's proven record and clear direction or an opposition whose increasingly strident criticism attempts to mask unclear and risky agendas," he said.
He highlighted the party's tax cuts in his speech, and also said the Bloc Québécois (BQ) was not a player. Quebecers will have to choose between the Conservatives and the Liberals, he said. "The Bloc will always be in opposition and will always come to Quebecers empty-handed."
Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia are three provinces where the Conservatives hope to win enough new seats to give them a majority.
Liberals not risky, Dion says
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion attacked the Conservative's record, and rejected the idea the party is a risky choice.
He rejected Conservative ads characterizing him as a tax-and-spend politician: Harper "will spend millions more to distort reality and attack my character. Well, that's a complete fabrication. That's not me."
Liberal English ads emphasize the party's environmental policy, while the French ads will emphasize cuts to arts funding, alleged Conservative international missteps and the economy.
Dion also said the a third or more of the party's candidates will be women.
Layton wants new job
NDP Leader Jack Layton is looking for a new job.
"My friends, today Stephen Harper announced he's quitting as prime minister and so today I'm applying for his job," Layton told supporters.
Presenting itself as a potential government is a new tactic for the NDP, which has sought in the past to hold the balance of power in Parliament and push other parties in its direction.
But Layton also returned to a longstanding NDP theme: alleged abuses by big business. He promised to stop what he called "ripoffs" by big oil, cellphone and banks.
TV debates key for Greens
Green party Leader Elizabeth May is counting on Canadians to care enough about the environment to vote for her party.
"You will choose whether we have a future that is green and healthy and secure or whether we go the wrong way."
But May has a tactical problem. She needs to get on the TV leaders debates to reach a national audience.
"There really isn't any more important threshold for us in this election initially to have a fair chance than to have the media consortium accept that the Green Party of Canada has a place at that podium," she said.
May said her party will win more than the one seat it holds now, provided she gets into the debates.
BQ can block Tories
BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe said the Conservatives must be prevented from winning a majority, and the BQ is the only party that can do that.
Duceppe compared Harper to U.S. President George W. Bush, and said the government is incompetent.