Stephen Harper is warning voters not to put "absolute trust" in any politician as his campaign targets NDP ridings in the wake of polls showing an increase in support for rival Jack Layton.
The rise in the NDP support has raised the risk that the Tories could lose ridings they narrowly won to the New Democrats in 2008 and it's heightened the difficulty of wresting seats from Mr. Layton in battlegrounds he won last time.
The Conservative Leader, who is asking Canadians to hand him the keys to a majority government, cautioned voters Sunday never to give blind allegiance to any leader.
Speaking to reporters Easter morning in the greater Victoria area, Mr. Harper augmented his pitch for a majority government with a reminder for Canadians to be skeptical. "We always say, in all these elections, in a democratic ethos, voters are never supposed to give absolute trust to anybody," Mr. Harper said.
"They are supposed to constantly question and that is part of the process."
Mr. Harper didn't explain whether he was urging skepticism about one particular party. But his warning comes as the Conservative campaign tries to plant seeds of doubt about Mr. Layton in the minds of voters.
The Tories began running an ad Friday that suggests "blind ambition" drives Mr. Layton, using as proof the role he played in assembling the 2008 coalition with the Liberals.
The ad, which first aired this past January, attacks Mr. Layton for allegedly plotting with the Bloc Québécois even before the 2008 election was over.
"So desperate for power, Layton began planning a coalition with the Bloc Québécois before our votes were even counted," the ad says.
"Jack Layton and his coalition with the Bloc Québécois: he did it before and he'll do it again. And Canada will pay the price," it says.
In British Columbia, as well as some battlegrounds in Ontario, for instance, the New Democrats are the Conservatives' main rival for votes.
The Tory Leader heads to Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor Monday, both cities that elected New Democrats in the last national ballot. Early in the campaign Conservatives were worried about weak support for the NDP, a scenario that would deliver more votes to the second-place Liberals. But now the Tories have to be concerned that the NDP could hurt them.
Monday will be the third day in the row the Harper tour has taken direct aim at New Democrat ridings. It comes in light of recent polling suggesting the NDP poses a bigger threat in the final week of the campaign after gaining support to put the left-leaning party in a statistical tie with the Liberals.
Mr. Harper spent Saturday evening in the northern Vancouver Island city of Campbell River, defending an incumbent Conservative against the NDP. It's not often the Tory Leader visits ridings the party already holds.
"We're not under any illusion here, [the]main competition is the NDP," the Conservative Leader told a partisan crowd of about 400 in Campbell River.
He warned voters in Vancouver Island North, a sprawling riding that's bled forestry jobs in recent years, not to trust the New Democrats.
Alleging the NDP would try to form an alliance with the Liberals to govern if the Tories failed to win a majority, Mr. Harper cited examples from provincial politics where New Democrats have won power.
"One of the first things the NDP did when they took power in Nova Scotia was to raise the HST [harmonized sales tax]there by two full percentage points," the Conservative Leader said.
Despite his warnings for voters to retain skepticism about politicians, Mr. Harper assured Canadians they can trust him with majority control in Ottawa - power that no prime minister has been given for nearly seven years.
"We are asking for a mandate to take us further in the direction that we have been leading Canada: creating jobs, delivering affordable benefits to families while lowering your taxes and keeping them down," the Conservative Leader said.
"We're the only party capable of forming a strong national majority government and we want to see every region of the country have a voice in that kind of a strong stable government."