Bob Rae was as much responsible for freeing Nelson Mandela and the end of the Soviet Union as for what happened to Ontario's economy when he was premier, the interim Liberal leader said Monday in response to a new Conservative attack ad.

There was a serious recession in North America when he became Ontario's NDP premier in 1990, Rae said during an interview Monday with Evan Solomon, host of CBC's Power & Politics

"What are [the Conservatives] saying — that somehow there's a serious recession that affects Ontario [and] I'm uniquely responsible for that, but somehow I can't take credit for good things that happen? Nelson Mandela got out of jail, the entire Soviet Union collapsed — why wouldn't they give me credit for that?" Rae said.

"They're laying every single conceivable economic problem at my doorstep. Surely I’m allowed to say, 'well, let's look at some of the good things that happened as well.'

"There are things they omitted. For example, they fail to mention the fact that the Blue Jays won the World Series twice when I was premier. They could have mentioned that," Rae said.

The Conservative Party released two ads online on Monday, the day of a byelection in Toronto-Danforth, which came open when former NDP leader Jack Layton died of cancer in August, 2011. One is the anti-Rae ad; the other is an ad about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's record. They're expected to air on television on Tuesday.

'Change the channel'

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney defended the ads, saying Rae has invited the debate and is acting like he wants to be leader. Kenney said Rae's record as Ontario premier was an unmitigated disaster.

"The political debate doesn't just happen every four years. It happens every single day," he said on Power & Politics With Evan Solomon.

"I don't think it's a perpetual campaign. It is a perpetual democratic debate."

Rae said the ad seems to be meant to "change the channel" away from the controversy over fraudulent election calls in which opposition MPs say the Conservatives launched a co-ordinated campaign to suppress votes across the country.

"The only thing I find interesting is here they’re coming after me — the interim leader of the third party three years before an election starts," Rae said. "So you have to ask yourself the question, why exactly would they be doing that? What exactly are they afraid of at this point in their mandate?"

Rae says the Liberal party will fight back against the attack ad.