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Although an election may or may not be coming, an election campaign is certainly underway, as the Liberal Party released two attack ads on Friday to counter a spate of Conservative commercials that went out earlier this week.

As attack ads go, the Liberal messages are pretty gentle. True to Michael Ignatieff's word, the 30-second commercials avoid personal attacks, instead targeting Conservative policies that Liberals believe are not popular with voters.

One commercial criticizes Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to proceed with the purchase of F-35 stealth fighters to replace the military's aging fleet of CF-18s.

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"An untendered deal to spend 16-billion of your tax dollars on 65 fighter jets. What could he be thinking?" the female narrator intones. "Is this your Canada, or Harper's?"

The second ad targets the Conservatives' decision to proceed with a fresh round of corporate tax cuts even as "it's harder than ever to get by and your family's cost of living keeps climbing."

The party believes that most Canadians oppose both the tax cuts and the fighter jet purchase, which was initiated almost a decade ago by the Liberal government of the day.

The commercials began running nationally starting on Friday, but the party declined to say how often they would run or at what cost.

Dimitri Soudas, Mr. Harper's director of communications, called the Liberal ads "an assault on job-creators, workers in Canada's aerospace industry, and workers right across the country."

He noted that the Liberal leader is not mentioned in either commercial. "By keeping Michael Ignatieff out of view, the Liberals are conceding his unpopularity among Canadians." Mr. Ignatieff scores below both Mr. Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton in polls assessing their popularity.

All of this noise is predicated on the assumption that the government will fall over its budget, expected in March, forcing an election. With the Liberals determined to vote against that budget, it's up to the NDP to decide whether the government survives. At the moment, the NDP is not advertising at all.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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