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A still from an NDP ad campaign that rolls out Tuesday. The spot features Canadians musing about Jack Layton as prime minister.
A still from an NDP ad campaign that rolls out Tuesday. The spot features Canadians musing about Jack Layton as prime minister.

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Parties get ready to empty their clips in battle for the airwaves Add to ...

Expect to see the political parties carpet bombing the airwaves with a mixture of attack - and feel-good patriotic - ads in this final stretch of the campaign. With so much at stake - and a $21-million spending cap - the three main parties will not let up until Canadians go to the polls on May 2.

The Conservatives have "quite a bit of budget remaining for the last week for ads," according to one senior Tory source. The Liberals, meanwhile, will throw everything they possibly can at Canadians hoping something will stick. And the NDP will try to solidify its gains with a positive message delivered by a smiling and hopeful Jack Layton.

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The NDP

Mr. Layton's NDP debuts a new ad on Tuesday portraying the leader as above the political fray and very prime ministerial. It shows ordinary Canadians musing about Mr. Layton as prime minister. "Imagine a leader who sees millions of people without a family doctor…," says a young woman holding a coffee. "And, then actually hires more family doctors," adds a young man as he walks down the street. It ends with a confident Mr. Layton declaring: "You know I am a fighter. And I won't stop until the job is done."

The ad will be run nationally and will be in very heavy rotation, according to a senior NDP campaign strategist.

This new ad follows closely the party's "Together we can do this" ad. It's all about Mr. Layton - he is in every frame, and in 30 seconds he says "I" five times. It began running over the Easter long weekend and has shown so well the party held back the "Imagine" ad for a day. "We want to let it stand by itself for another 24 hours," said the strategist.

The NDP is surging in the polls, especially in Quebec, but it needs more support in Ontario. Clearly, the NDP is trying to nail down its support - and attract more voters - by promoting the leader more than the policies.

The Liberals

In contrast to the NDP, Michael Ignatieff's Liberals will be running a combination of ads with all sorts of different messages. Some will feature the leader and some will reinforce the party's so-called Family Pack plan - policies aimed at helping middle-class families. In addition, a senior Liberal strategist said the party will also air ads that compare and contrast the Liberals with their opponents. Most Canadians call these attack ads - such as the latest "Loonie" ad that the Liberals debuted on Monday. It portrays Mr. Layton and Conservative leader Stephen Harper as two sides of one coin; it attacks their platforms and argues they worked together in 2005 to take down Paul Martin's Liberal government.

Like those of the NDP, these ads will be in heavy rotation.

When the campaign began last month, the Liberals had prepared a strategy to roll out their ads in four phases - the first was to introduce Mr. Ignatieff, the rookie leader, to Canadians; the second phase was to promote the platform. The party launched a couple of attack ads in the third phase. Phase four was to be aimed at trying to get out the vote - it seems now, however, the Liberals have abandoned that plan as they drive toward May 2.

The Conservatives

Mr. Harper's Conservatives are not changing their ad game plan in this last week, according to a senior campaign strategist. Rather, they will continue to hit hard with their message of jobs, economy and the future.

The Tories said they have been driving the same messages since the campaign began and haven't changed it: talking about the economy, the future and opportunity and contrasting their stand on taxes with those of the other parties.

The strategist charged the Liberals with inconsistency, especially with their latest two-sides-of-the-same-coin ad attacking both Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton, saying it contained too many messages.

Tories are expected also to be jamming the airways over this week - and look for repeated airings of the ad featuring a very patriotic Mr. Harper giving a speech on his vision of how Canada and Canadians can be at their best. Focus groups are responding positively to the ad, which has been compared to a U.S. Republican ad.

But the Conservatives are not averse to going off their positive message. An ad portraying Mr. Ignatieff as desperate that has been in the Tory quiver for the past week was broadcast on Monday. It accuses him of having no plan for the economy and says the only strategy he has left is to air attack ads.

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