The election dogfight in Quebec City set off a fiery, face-to-face confrontation Sunday between Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and the local Conservative incumbent.
Duceppe was campaigning at a suburban farmers market when he ran into Tory candidate Luc Harvey, who began to heckle the separatist leader.
In front of reporters and shoppers, Harvey shouted at Duceppe, demanding he tell the crowd about his record of political accomplishments.
"Mr. Harvey, be polite," replied Duceppe, who gestured to the RCMP security team that follows him everywhere. "Move him out of the way."
A seething Duceppe dismissed the candidate in the riding of Louis-Hebert as an "imbecile."
"I've always thought that he was an imbecile," he said. "He once asked why Canada was not in the European Union."
Harvey said he just happened to be passing by the market when he spotted the Bloc Québécois campaign buses, so he decided to drop in.
"I'm an imbecile, he said, because I asked him what his record is," Harvey said. "I asked him once again to talk about his record, and look, we can see, he doesn't have a record."
Harvey also said he had accomplished more in the last two years of his mandate as an MP than the Bloc managed in 18 years in Ottawa.
The Conservative hopeful, who won the riding by about 200 votes in 2006, predicts the race will be a tight one. "I can't say I'm not worried," Harvey said.
The battle for Quebec is neck-and-neck in many ridings as new polls suggest several Tory incumbents could have a tough time hanging on to their seats.
Harvey said the Conservatives did not mastermind his showdown with Duceppe. "This is my riding, this is the Louis-Hebert riding, this is Luc Harvey's riding," he said.
However, the Tories have a history of positioning their candidates so they can react quickly to their adversaries' announcements.
Last week, Tory House leader Peter Van Loan crashed a speech by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion in Toronto. Earlier this month, Conservative candidate Steven Blaney showed up at a Duceppe address.
Harvey later related the confrontation to a crowd of about 600 supporters at a Conservative rally in the provincial capital, ahead of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech there.