The Conservative government is ramping up its campaign-style warnings of a Michael Ignatieff-led coalition, painting a scorched-earth image of what a coalition government would do to the Canadian economy.
In a luncheon speech to a business audience at Ottawa's Chateau Laurier, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Canadians should be afraid of the financial consequences of a coalition government.
Repeating a line that is increasingly being used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Flaherty said the next campaign will present voters with a choice between a majority Conservative government and a de facto coalition majority government.
"Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois government, nothing would be safe," Mr. Flaherty told a Canada Club business audience. "No part of our economy would be spared. No taxpayer would avoid the hit."
Mr. Flaherty said his government does not want an election now because it will put at risk Canada's economic recovery, yet it is clear from his speech the campaigning is already under way.
Conservatives are hoping the abandoned attempts by the Liberals and the NDP to form a coalition in late 2008 - with the support of the Bloc - will raise doubts in voters' minds about what a Liberal government might look like. In particular, Mr. Flaherty focused on the role of the NDP in any future coalition, suggesting that would produce higher taxes.
"Any coalition that would give the NDP access to taxpayers' wallets should strike fear in regular Canadians," he said. "What's more, any coalition that would give a veto on national policy to a party dedicated to the breakup of our country is unacceptable."
In contrast, Mr. Flaherty said the strength of the Canadian economy during the recession has become the envy of the world.
"We're punching above our weight - far above our weight. And now the heavyweights are coming to us for lessons," he said. "Leaders of the world [are]looking at Canada and our economy with envy, saying: 'We want to be Canadian.'"
During the summer, Mr. Ignatieff has attempted to counter talk of a coalition by saying that his "big red tent" party is in fact a coalition of voters in the middle of the political spectrum.
Speaking Tuesday morning, NDP Leader Jack Layton told CBC Radio he makes no apologies for his willingness to work with other parties. He criticized the Prime Minister for refusing to work with other parties in the minority Parliament, particularly on the issue of the long-gun registry.
Mr. Layton also defended the merits of minority Parliaments, saying they have proven successful in the past.
"I think with the approach of Mr. Harper being so confrontational that it doesn't make full use of the potential of a minority parliament. In the 1960's we had those situations and that's where medicare came from, our Canada Pension Plan, and many other initiatives that have since been celebrated. So it takes hard work, but it also takes a willingness to move beyond the attack dog politics."