The Conservatives are finally training their sights on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about to plunge the country into an 11-week election on Sunday.
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After carpet-bombing the airwaves for weeks with ads asserting that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready," the ruling party is poised to start the official campaign with two new television ads targeting Mulcair.
The ads portray the NDP leader as an unethical opportunist who looks out for himself at taxpayers' expense, a "career politician" the country can't afford.
The new ads feature the same group of supposedly ordinary Canadians perusing resumes who trash Trudeau's work history in the ubiquitous "just not ready" ads, only this time it's Mulcair's resume that's being dissected.
The Tories have been running the Trudeau attack ads relentlessly, long after opinion polls suggested Liberal support had sagged into third place, largely to the benefit of the NDP which heads into the campaign with a slim lead over the Conservatives.
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Liberal strategists say they believe the Tory obsession with Trudeau reflects the fact that the Liberals remain the biggest threat to Conservatives in the crucial suburban swing ridings ringing Toronto, where all three parties agree the Oct. 19 election will be won or lost.
However, the Conservatives have apparently decided it's time to burst the NDP's bubble, although it remains to be seen whether they'll run the anti-Mulcair ads with the same frequency as the anti-Trudeau ads.
Tory email warns of higher taxes
The Conservatives offered a "sneak peek" at their new anti-Mulcair ads in a fundraising email missive sent out to supporters late Friday.
In the email, Tory campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke asserts that the NDP "would wreck our economy," that Mulcair's "dangerous schemes would mean higher taxes for all Canadians and would drive us back into deficit."
Yet the ads the email is promoting don't mention the economy or Mulcair's policies. They focus squarely and personally on Mulcair.
The panellists perusing the NDP leader's resume note that Mulcair was first elected to Quebec's National Assembly in 1994 — "as a Liberal," one of the group says in a shocked voice.
"Hmm, he's no fresh face," comments another.
One ad recounts that the NDP has been "caught breaking the rules by directing $2.7 million of taxpayers' dollars to their political offices." And it recalls a decades-old libel suit in which Mulcair was ordered by a judge to pay $100,000 "for malicious and abusive behaviour" — a tab the ad asserts he wanted taxpayers to pay.
"Politicians like him never care when it's our money," one man grouses.
The other ad recounts how Mulcair, as a provincial politician, was once offered a bribe by a "disgraced Quebec mayor" which he didn't accept but also didn't report to police for 17 years. It also claims that Mulcair joined the federal NDP only "after he cashed out his $135,000 severance," to which he was entitled after retiring from provincial politics.
"Looks out for himself," comments one of the group.