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Politics Liberals showcase their economic credentials in the teeth of Tory attack ads

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, listens to former prime minister Paul Martin during an economic presentation in a small manufacturer on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 in Toronto.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The federal Liberals put on a display of economic star power Tuesday as voters watched jittery world markets and Justin Trudeau faced unrelenting Conservative attack ads that portray him as weak on the economy.

Former prime minister Paul Martin was pressed into service, a not-so-subtle attempt to remind voters that as finance minister under Jean Chretien he oversaw the elimination of the federal deficit.

"The Liberal party again has the right team, made up of the right people to take on the vacuum that has been left by the Conservative government," Mr. Martin said. "It is a team that is proven, experienced and ready. They are certainly of a quality that none of our opponents can match."

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In a clear effort to burnish the party's economic credentials, other candidates from across the country, many with impressive resumes, joined an event in the Toronto Area, which is turning into a key battleground for the three major parties.

The emphasis on "the team" is something the Liberals hope to play up. Conservative ads that portray Mr. Trudeau as "not ready" have resonated with the public, according to the party's own surveys and focus groups.

Some of Mr. Trudeau's own missteps haven't helped the perception. He opened himself up to attack recently by saying in Saskatchewan that the country's economy doesn't grow from the top down but from the middle-class "heart outwards" — remarks that were ridiculed by Conservatives.

The global economic uncertainty and the market meltdown over the last few days have only sharpened the public's focus on the economy.

The Liberals base their economic plan on a middle-class tax cut and a proposal to impose higher taxes on the country's wealthiest one per cent, but they have had a hard time countering the "weakness" perception created by the attack ads.

Mr. Martin took a direct shot at the Conservatives on Tuesday, saying their hands-off approach to the economy has been disastrous.

"There is a reason, you know, why we have a federal government in this country," he said. "There is a reason we have a central government in this country. The central government's role is not be an idle observer of the passing scene, but to do something about it when there are problems."

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