The Opposition Liberals have launched a series of new attack ads targeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spending priorities in response to a Conservative blitz unveiled earlier this week.
The two 15-second spots, posted early Friday on the Liberals' YouTube page, show the federal political parties are stepping up the posturing as they gird for a possible election campaign as early as the spring.
The ads slam the Conservative government's multibillion-dollar single-sourced purchase of 65 state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets, as well as the Tories' decision to keep a final round of planned corporate tax cuts in the upcoming federal budget.
The two 15-second spots are branded with the slogan "Is this your Canada — or Harper's?" and feature a superimposed photo of the prime minister sitting in a fighter jet and standing amid falling animated dollar signs.
The Liberals and NDP have demanded the minority Conservative government roll back the corporate tax rates in the budget, saying the $6 billion in revenue would be better spent on helping Canadians struggling in the wake of the global recession.
But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has refused, saying the cuts are necessary to keep Canada competitive for attracting new business and jobs.
Liberals attack aerospace workers: PMO
The Liberals say their "clarification" ads "attack problems, not people" while the Conservatives' ads personally targeted Ignatieff, NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
In a Twitter message, Ignatieff said his party is hitting back at Harper's Tories "the way you'd want us to."
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Friday morning, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre called the Liberal ads "vicious," saying they attack "job creators" and Canada's 80,000 aerospace industry workers while the Conservative ads focus on leadership and improving jobs or countries.
"It's interesting to note that Michael Ignatieff's ads don't mention Michael Ignatieff," said Poilievre, who is also Harper's parliamentary secretary. "Nor do they mention any positive plan for the economy or the country."
Also on Twitter, Harper's communications director, Dimitri Soudas, pointed out a spelling error in one of the French ads, which was prompty corrected. The Conservatives were criticized for spelling Ignatieff's name wrong in a press release this week announcing their own ads.
In another development, the New Democrats, who are to unveil their new election campaign headquarters on Monday, sent out a "reality check" on the Liberal ads, pointing out that Ignatieff "campaigned time and time again" on lowering corporate taxes and previously supported the final round of cuts, which came into effect on Jan. 1.
"How can Canadians trust any leader who runs so fast from his own record?" the NDP release said.
The government has defended the purchase of the F-35s to replace Canada's aging fleet of CF-18s as a defence priority and a boon for the country's aerospace sector, especially in Quebec.
Earlier this week, the Conservative ads claimed Ignatieff would try to seize power through a coalition with the NDP and Bloc, with the tagline: "He did it before, he'll do it again" — in reference to the failed coalition attempt by the Stéphane Dion-led Liberals and the NDP, with support from the Bloc, in late 2008.
Another of the ads focuses on Ignatieff's years spent abroad as an author and academic, saying the Liberal leader is "back in Canada" and "he didn't come back for you."
When asked about the ads in an interview to be aired Saturday morning on CBC Radio's The House, Ignatieff dismissed the ads as "standard Conservative garbage."
"I like to attack problems; I don't like to attack people," he said. "They want to get personal. I just think it says more about Mr. Harper than it does about me.''