Attack ads will be PM's 'legacy': Ignatieff

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he believes Stephen Harper will be remembered for negative personal attack ads when the prime minister leaves politics.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he believes Stephen Harper will be remembered for negative personal attack ads when the prime minister leaves politics.

"That will be Harper's legacy when we vote him out," Ignatieff told host Kathleen Petty in an interview on CBC Radio's The House airing Saturday.

"People will look back and ask: What did he do for the country? [The answer] will be those ads."

Ignatieff's comments came as his party launched a series of ads on Friday attacking Harper's spending priorities in response to attack ads put out by the Conservatives earlier in the week.

The increased partisan volume on the airwaves has created an election campaign atmosphere in Ottawa, despite Parliament being on a break until the end of the month and every federal leader claiming not to want to trigger a spring vote.

Ignatieff's Liberals have indicated they will vote against Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's upcoming budget if he doesn't reverse the corporate tax cuts that went into effect earlier this month.

The Liberal ads released on Friday portray the corporate tax cuts and the multibillion-dollar purchase of 65 F-35 fighter jets as wasteful at a time when Canadians need help recovering from the effects of the global recession. The Conservatives quickly labelled the ads a vicious attack on "job creators" and Canada's 80,000 aerospace workers.

Ignatieff said the 15-second spots "have been available for some time." 

"Mr. Harper decided to go on the attack so we thought a vigorous, issue-oriented, policy-oriented attack, or reply, was a good idea," he said.

Flaherty, who needs the support of at least one of the three opposition parties to pass his budget and avoid triggering a spring election, has refused the Liberals' and the NDP's demands on the corporate tax rates, saying such a move would hurt Canada's competitiveness and directly limit job creation.

Ignatieff would not say whether he expects an election to take place this year, but insisted his party is ready to fight a campaign if required.

"I have a strong feeling that our troops, when I listen to them, I have a sense of readiness," he said. 

'No to coalition'

The Liberal leader also questioned how the Tories can continue to accuse him of plotting an opposition coalition to take power, saying he has stated on the record he wants to form a Liberal government.

"The answer is no to coalition," Ignatieff said.

He also said he's used to the tone of the Conservative ads, which target Ignatieff's years abroad with the message that the Liberal leader is "back in Canada" and "he didn't come back for you."

"This is just the standard Conservative garbage, personal attacks that they've been trying for years," Ignatieff said. "I like to attack problems. I don't like to attack people."

But when pressed by the CBC's Petty on why the Liberals didn't list Harper's reversal on the Afghanistan mission end date in a document entitled Five Years of Harper: A Legacy of Broken Promises, which was released this week, Ignatieff conceded that the prime minister had changed his mind.

"I think he's changed his position," said Ignatieff, whose party supported the extension of the mission in Afghanistan in a non-combat, training role. "I think there's no question about it."