Tory attacks helped me, Dion says

Stéphane Dion says the Conservative party's distortions of him in attack ads gave him an advantage during last week's two televised leaders' debates.

Stéphane Dion says the Conservative party's distortions of him in attack ads gave him an advantage during last week's two televised leaders' debates.

"In some ways, I think Mr. Harper gave me great help because when [it came to] the debates, I was able to have the real Stéphane Dion in the living room with Canadians," he told CBC's Peter Mansbridge in an interview Wednesday evening.

"And they discovered … that Mr. Harper distorted reality, that I have nothing to do with the character he invented."

During the interview conducted for The National 's Your Turn, Mansbridge asked the leader questions submitted by viewers as well as a few of his own, covering a range of topics such as the economy, Afghanistan and the Liberal's Green Shift platform.

Dion sought to paint the Oct. 14 federal election as a stark choice between the Conservatives and Liberals, and not just because of the party's ideologies.

"It's also a battle between two styles of leadership and two styles of doing politics," said Dion.

The latest rolling poll by Canadian Press/Harris-Decima suggests the Liberals are edging closer to Stephen Harper's Conservatives as Canadians' fears increase over the uncertain economy, with the Oct. 14 vote just days away.

With the economy at top of mind for voters, Dion stressed the economic strengths of his top Liberal candidates and tossed in a jab, calling Harper's team "appalling." 

Asked about who he might tap for the high-profile and crucial finance portfolio, he refused to speculate but mentioned some key Liberals including finance critic John McCallum, John McKay and former leadership rival Martha Hall Findlay.

As for the Liberals' plan to address the economic situation, Dion repeated his promise to, if elected, launch a 30-day action plan, with stepped-up spending on infrastructure, consultations with regulatory agencies and private-sector economists, and talks with the provincial premiers.

Several questions focused on how the Liberals' Green Shift plan to reduce income taxes and raise taxes on pollution would affect average Canadians.

Dion stressed that the plan would be introduced incrementally to ensure the economy adapts and added the Liberal platform has support from those in the financial industry.

"The economists are not telling us, 'Don't do it.' They are telling us, 'Why are you waiting to do it?' "

He cited Sweden, where the carbon tax is $150 per ton — three times what Green Leader Elizabeth May is proposing, 15 times what the Liberals proposed. "And the economy is still very strong," said Dion.

He also emphasized rural Canadians would receive an annual $150 tax credit, with Northerners getting up to $200 on top of that.

Dion suggested if the Green Shift plan had been introduced years ago, Canada wouldn't be losing jobs right now.