Former prime minister Jean Chrétien, left, campaigns with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion on Friday night in Brampton, Ont. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien appeared on the campaign trail alongside party leader Stéphane Dion, slinging harsh criticism at Stephen Harper in vote-rich southern Ontario days before Canadians head to the polls.

Chrétien, who retired from politics in 2003 after a decade in power, shot a steady stream of criticism at the Conservative leader at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., on Friday evening.

The feisty 74-year-old harkened back to the 1930s, 60s and 90s, saying: "There was a word in the land. It was 'Tory times are bad times.' It's still true today."

Chrétien, who won three straight majority governments, cautioned Canadians from parking their votes with the Greens, NDP and the Bloc. "The choice is clear. The choice is Dion or Harper."

He also tore into Harper for his reputed controlling ways with his cabinet ministers, saying he would have quit if former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau had treated him that way.

Stressing the importance of a leader's team when running the government, Chrétien suggested Harper's has remained unremarkable and invisible. He said educated Montrealers drew blanks when asked to name five ministers.

"Mr. Dion was a minister for nine years. And Mr. Harper arrived there with no experience and it shows," said Chrétien.

"Harper destroyed 50 years of relationships with China," said Chrétien, noting both past Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments sought to maintain its dealings with the key trading partner.

Chrétien is the second former prime minister to join Dion during the five-week campaign, with Paul Martin giving a speech late last week.

Broadbent hits trail 'to pick a fight'

The Liberals weren't the only party turning to a familiar name as the campaign approaches Tuesday's election.

Ed Broadbent, who led the New Democrats to its largest Commons presence with 43 seats in 1988, said he'd selected Friday to coincide with Chrétien's appearance.

He told reporters the reason for his appearance at the campaign stop in Gatineau, Que., was "to pick a fight with Mr. Chrétien."

With current NDP Leader Jack Layton at his side, Broadbent described Chrétien's Liberals as one of the most misleading in Canadian history and blamed many of today's problems on him.

"The social problems we have today, the shortage of doctors we have today, didn't come from Mr. Harper. They came from the Liberals," Broadbent said.

Broadbent predicted Layton would lead the party to a better showing than he had. "We will have the largest caucus in the history of the New Democratic party," he told the crowd.

The NDP plan to hit 17 ridings in the next three days, with whistlestops in vote-rich southern Ontario and Quebec, where they are hoping to gain more seats than the one currently held.