Tory 'war room' gets rocky debut

The federal Conservatives finally got to use their high-tech war room in a campaign on Monday after the party officially opened the sprawling facility in April of last year.

Reporters grill candidates at early-morning media session

The federal Conservatives finally got to use their high-tech war room in an election campaign on Monday after the party officially opened the sprawling Ottawa facility in April of last year.

Two cabinet members, Jason Kenney and Lawrence Cannon, summoned reporters to the war room early Monday for a press conference to release the latest in a long series of ads attacking Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

The pre-dawn media sessions are an attempt by the Conservatives to get a jump on the opposition and control the daily news cycle, but Monday's session didn't work quite as planned,  the CBC's James Fitz-Morris reported.

Only two media outlets, CanWest and the CBC, were present, and the journalists attending peppered the two candidates with questions on gas prices, tax policy and reports of the party attempting to prevent some of its candidates from talking to the media.

Kenney and Cannon targeted Dion's "risky" leadership that they said could reverse popular Tory policies, such as the $1,200-a-year child-care benefit and the reduction in the federal goods and services tax.

Dion has not said he would reverse the child-care benefit or the GST cut, which the Conservatives reduced by two percentage points to five per cent since they took power in 2006.

The Tory facility, located in an industrial park on the outskirts of Ottawa, is far away from media offices in the capital, but is kitted out with high-tech communications gear and its own state-of-the-art television studio.

Liberals refute campaign plane criticism

Meanwhile on Monday, the Liberals sought to buffer criticism of the party's apparent challenges to secure a plane for its cross-country campaign tour, the CBC's Susan Bonner reported from the campaign.

While the Conservatives and NDP locked in modern jets with Air Canada, the Liberals signed a last-minute deal with Air Inuit for a former cargo plane. The plane's primary use had been to evacuate aboriginal communities in crisis.

Liberal spokesman Mark Dunn said Monday that media reports of the plane had been misleading, and insisted the plane can get in and out of more places than the Airbuses being used by other parties.

Dunn said the plane can land on gravel runways and "can get us closer to the people."

With files from James Fitz-Morris and Susan Bonner