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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference in Riviere-du-Loup, Que., on Jan. 12, 2010. (MATHIEU BELANGER/Reuters)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference in Riviere-du-Loup, Que., on Jan. 12, 2010. (MATHIEU BELANGER/Reuters)

French ads reveal new Tory focus on rural Quebec Add to ...

The Conservative Party has released attack ads against all of its potential partners in upcoming confidence votes on the budget, rehashing fears about an opposition coalition and making a pitch to francophone Quebeckers outside of downtown Montreal.

High on rhetoric and partisanship, the new television messages are feeding the pre-electoral buzz in political circles as all party leaders are out on the road getting ready for a new sitting of Parliament and a series of crucial budget votes.

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The ads repeat many themes that are dear to the Conservatives, portraying Leader Stephen Harper as a steady hand at the wheel of government, while accusing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of acting in self-interest when he left a position at Harvard University to run for office.

"Ignatieff. He didn't come back for you," is the slogan of four anti-Liberal ads.

The Conservatives insisted they are only reacting to opposition threats to topple their minority government this winter.

"The Harper government has been perfectly clear that it neither wants an election nor will provoke one," the Conservatives said in a news release.

But that didn't stop them from taking aim at the NDP, the opposition party that is most likely to support the Conservative budget if it addresses some of its concerns, such as improving pensions or reducing heating costs for Canadians.

"They say ambition can be blind - just ask the NDP's Jack Layton," says an ad about Mr. Layton's role in the creation of an opposition coalition in 2008.

While attacks invoking the coalition or the portrayal of Mr. Ignatieff as a carpet-bagger are not new, the Conservatives unveiled a fresh message in Quebec in the hopes of winning away seats from the Bloc Québécois in francophone ridings.

Two French-language ads portray Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe as "too Montreal," in the hope that the resentment against the province's biggest city will pay off in the rest of the province. The new Conservative slogan in French refers to "region," which is shorthand in Quebec for areas outside of Montreal.

"Our region in power," the Conservative ads promised.

The Conservative Party said it has a large budget to bombard the airwaves with the ads across the country. While the opposition is not expected to fight back with a similar pre-electoral campaign, the parties accused the Conservatives of spreading lies.

"This is more of the same mud and invective we've come to expect from Harper - dividing Canadians with Republican-style personal attacks and fabricated claims that prove one thing: This is a government resorting to attacks because they lack any direction of their own," the Liberal Party said.

Speaking near Quebec City, where his party is hoping to win back seats from the governing party, Mr. Duceppe said a majority of Quebeckers will remain united against the Conservatives.

"There is always this demagogic side to them. The inspiration comes from the American Republicans … in always trying to divide," Mr. Duceppe said.





The Conservative ad hominems

Liberal

Armed with a new slogan, the Conservative Party is raising more questions about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's attachment to Canada and his plans if were to become prime minister.

"Ignatieff. He didn't come back for you," the Conservative Party says in four new attack ads.

Following on the theme of last year's "Just Visiting" messages, the Conservatives are focusing on the fact that Mr. Ignatieff conducted much of his professional career outside of Canada and has spoken about the United States as his country. The ads also play up Mr. Ignatieff's role in supporting a planned coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois before he became party leader in 2008, arguing that he'd back another "reckless coalition" after the next election.

NDP

The NDP is trying to work with the government to ensure the passage of this year's budget, but a new Conservative ad accusing NDP Leader Jack Layton of being guided by blind ambition cannot be conducive to good relations.

In a new televised message, the Conservatives claim the NDP secretly concocted plans for a coalition before the 2008 election, and that the party will try to strike another deal the next time around. The ads show black-and-white pictures of Mr. Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, including a public handshake.

"Jack Layton and his coalition with the Bloc Québécois. He did it before. He'll do it again. And Canada will pay the price," the ad states.

Bloc

There is a traditional rivalry in Quebec between Montreal and the rest of the province, and the Conservative Party is hoping to exploit this by blasting Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe as "too Montreal."

In two French-language ads, the Conservatives aim to portray the Bloc as elitist and representing the interests of downtown urbanites, alleging that Quebeckers in "the regions" are left behind. The goal is to persuade francophone voters outside Montreal to stop sending Bloc MPs to the opposition benches, and elect Conservative MPs, who will be in government.

The ads argue that the Conservatives offer the only "sensible choice to Quebeckers in the regions."

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