Squeezed on both the right from the Conservatives and the left from the NDP, the Liberals launched a new attack ad Monday morning that portrays Stephen Harper and Jack Layton as " two sides of the same coin."
The Conservative and NDP leaders have been compared to many things over the years, but seldom to each other.
The new Liberal ad maintains, however, that the two are inseparable. It shows the visage of each leader on opposing sides of a spinning coin - there is no mention of who is heads and who is tails - while the narrator maintains that both men are "career politicians" who "sacrificed principle for power to stop the Liberal plan for national childcare, stronger gun control, and better environmental protections."
It took a moment to figure out what the Grits were referring to, but then sunk in. The Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois combined in November of 2005 to bring down Paul Martin's Liberal government, which had promised a national childcare plan.
And some, though not all, NDP MPs have voted with the Conservatives to scrap the gun registry.
The Liberals have been accused in the past of poaching from the NDP platform. Now they're poaching communications lines. NDP leaders from at least as far back as David Lewis in the 1970s have derided the Liberals and Conservatives as "Tweedledum and Tweedledee," who both neglect "ordinary Canadians."
Now it is the Liberals who are saying the same about the Conservatives and NDP. Their platforms may be different, but each party, the Liberals maintain, is equally irresponsible.
"Today, one will give your tax dollars to big banks and rich oil companies… the other will jack up your taxes to pay for $70-billion in new spending," the ad concludes.
No, Mr. Ignatieff insisted to reporters, this is not a sign that the Liberals are attempting to win back voters who are fleeing the party in both directions, as the Conservatives flirt with majority-government support in the polls and the NDP threaten to move into second place.
"I don't feel squeezed. I feel I got running room either way," Mr. Ignatieff maintained.
But he spent as much time in his media availability hammering at Mr. Layton as he did at Mr. Harper. In a more substantial criticism, the Liberals are pointing to what others have already noted as a serious flaw in the NDP's campaign platform, which proposes to raise $3.6-billion in revenues this year from an industrial cap-and-trade system to lower greenhouse gases.
The program, which is enormously complex, could take years to set up.
"Mr. Layton signs his platform. Two weeks later he has to admit there's a $3.6-billion hole in it," Mr. Ignatieff alleged.
But speaking in Saint John, the NDP Leader said he's "optimistic that it can be implemented in a timely way."
He added: "We have expertise in Montreal all set up to go. And it takes political will. That's what it takes to being in a regime like this."
The NDP has said specific commitments would be delayed until revenues begin to flow from cap-and-trade, which is rather like Mr. Harper saying he won't introduce new tax breaks for families with children until the deficit is eliminated.
But other than that, and the fact that some Western ridings tend to swing between the NDP and the Conservatives, there is little yoking the party of capital and the party of labour together.
Or there wasn't, until Michael Ignatieff suddenly found himself confronting every general's nightmare: fighting a two-front war.
With a report from Gloria Galloway