Tories, slipping in polls, launch attack ads

Wed May 13, 2009 5:05pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservative Party launched a series of ads attacking the opposition Liberals on Wednesday in a bid to recover lost ground in public support ahead of a possible election.

The Liberals have threatened to try to topple the minority government by mid-year, and while most analysts think that will not happen, the Conservatives decided they needed to cut into consistent leads the Liberals have scored in opinion polls.

If the Liberals decided to pull the plug on the government, reelected in October with a strengthened minority in Parliament, they would need the backing of the other two opposition parties, and such support is by no means certain.

The new television ads question the commitment to Canada of the popular new Liberal leader, former Harvard don Michael Ignatieff, who spent 34 years in the United States and Britain before returning to Canada to run for the Liberal leadership.

When Ignatieff took over informally as Liberal leader in December, a decision that was confirmed by the Liberal convention this month, he warned against partisan attacks on him.

At the time, the Conservatives had come close to being toppled and they refrained from negative ads. But they said on Wednesday the "free ride" was over.

"Mr. Ignatieff has had an extended honeymoon, but that honeymoon is over in terms of how the Conservative Party will be treating him," a senior Conservative, asking not to be identified, told reporters as he unveiled the ads.

"Michael Ignatieff. Just visiting," the ads proclaim. They quote him as having said while abroad that the only thing he missed about Canada was Algonquin Park, the vast provincial park in Ontario, and that he considered the United States his country and Britain his adopted country.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Blair Gable</p>