Conservatives unleash attack ads

Mon Jan 17, 2011 4:30pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Conservatives launched a series of biting attack ads on Monday, taking aim at opposition parties ahead of a possible election in the first half of the year.

The Conservatives won power in January 2006 and again in October 2008, but never managed to capture a majority of seats in the House of Commons. They have to rely on the support of opposition legislators to pass key measures such as budgets.

Political analysts are divided on whether the three opposition parties will unite to defeat the government over its next budget, likely in early March. That would trigger an immediate election.

Polls show that the most likely result of an election now would be a third consecutive minority Conservative government.

"(Canadians) are not looking for an opportunistic election. Their real concern is the economy," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Quebec's V channel in an interview to be shown on Monday night.

"If political parties ... provoke an election that no one wants, I think those parties will pay the price," he said. La Press newspaper obtained a copy of the interview.

The Conservatives say their advertisements are in response to an election-style tour of parts of Canada by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who has made clear he is unlikely to back the budget. And Ignatieff, a former academic who has found it hard to connect with voters, was the main target of the ads.

"Canadians should be in no doubt: the opportunist Ignatieff has decided that an election this spring is his best hope of becoming prime minister," a Conservative statement said.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to workers at the Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd. factory in Mirabel Quebec, January 14, 2011. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>