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A woman walks past the Centennial Flame as she makes her way up to Parliament Hill on Jan. 31, 2011, as the House of Commons resumes sitting. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A woman walks past the Centennial Flame as she makes her way up to Parliament Hill on Jan. 31, 2011, as the House of Commons resumes sitting. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Will sparks fly between Harper and Ignatieff? 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' Add to ...

Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff face off against each other in the Commons Monday for the first time since the Conservatives pulled their nasty attack ads against the Liberals offline and as the situation in Egypt worsens.

The Opposition Leader and his MPs will focus their Question Period efforts on the "Conservatives' bad spending choices and the billions being spent on corporate tax breaks," according to a senior Ignatieff official.

The corporate tax breaks are emerging as a key issue as political parties jockey for position in advance of a general election that could come as early as March over the federal budget.

In addition, the Liberals will demand the government be more clear in its language about the state of play in Egypt. They want the Prime Minister to state that "there needs to be a peaceful transition to free and fair elections," the Ignatieff official said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton will lead off on the issue as well. "Obviously we'll also be looking for a stronger Canadian response to the situation in Egypt," an NDP official said.

The Commons encounter between the three leaders this afternoon takes place after two weeks in which election speculation spiked and political rhetoric took a nasty turn. On Friday, the Tories pulled two attack ads off their website after just 24 hours.

The ads took a passionate moment by Mr. Ignatieff from his address to caucus entirely out of context. In answer to his own question about whether Liberals were ready to govern he raised his fists and yelled, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

The Tories used this emotional moment against him, incorporating the clip into an ad titled "Needless Election," suggesting the Liberal Leader wanted to force Canadians to the polls at all costs even if it upset the economic recovery. In the second spot, they used Mr. Ignatieff's "Yes! Yes! Yes!" line to suggest he wanted to raise taxes.

"Look, you throw mud against the wall some of it falls down," Mr. Ignatieff told CTV's Question Period Sunday when asked if he was surprised the ads came down. "This is their modus operandi. This is the way they operate. And I think Canadians are tired of this kind of stuff, and they want to have a good, sharp, clean battle of ideas and principles. ... And I hope the Conservatives have learned a lesson from this week.

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