The federal Conservatives kicked off their first full day of campaigning early Monday, as two prominent party members attacked Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, criticizing his "risky" leadership that could reverse popular Tory policies.
At a news conference in Ottawa, Lawrence Cannon, incumbent for Pontiac riding in Quebec, and Jason Kenney, incumbent for Calgary Southeast, suggested any move to take away the Tories' $1,200-a-year child-care benefit would hit low-income Canadians.
Tory campaign ads released early Monday also said Dion would "consider" raising the federal goods and services tax.
"Mr. Dion says that he's in favour of reducing poverty, but by raising the GST, by taking away the family child-care allowance, by driving up the costs of groceries, fuels, electricity and everything else, he's increasing the number of Canadians who are in a low-income situation," said Kenney.
Allegations of Dion supporting a GST increase is "yet another lie from a party whose leader has allowed the price of gas at the pumps to rise 70 cents a litre since the Conservatives took office," Liberal spokesman Mark Dunn said in an e-mail to media Monday.
Allegations 'open lies': Liberal leader
Speaking later in the morning, Dion decried the Tories' latest allegations over his policies as "open lies."
Dion said the Green Shift plan will benefit a majority of Canadians and is a direction recommended by a "great number" of economists and environmentalists.
"I call on Mr. Harper … to not try to win an election by lying, and to be honest for once," Dion said at a campaign appearance in Saint-Lambert, Que. "He's afraid to debate honestly, but for once he will have to do so."
Dion also told reporters he would not raise the GST, which the Conservatives cut by two percentage points to five per cent since they took power in 2006.
Benefit cheques criticized
While Dion has criticized the Tory plan to grant families a $100-a-month benefit cheque for each child under age six, he has not said he would revoke the credit.
"The Conservatives took a more retail approach in the last campaign and it was quite popular," said CBC's Julie Van Dusen, referring to the cheques of up to $100 a month the Tory governments send to families for each child under six years old.
"The other parties, the NDP and the Liberals have always denounced this as not a real plan and it doesn't create [child-care] spaces."
The comments came at what will be the first of daily early-morning briefings by the Conservatives designed to define the subject matter of the day's campaigning, said Van Dusen.
"The bottom line is ... they're out there bright and early on the offensive putting [Dion] on the defensive and we'll expect to hear what he has to say about this later," she said.