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Dion won't respond to Tory attack ads 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:10 p.m., February 13, 2007]

Stephane Dion and Jean Chretien star in Tory ads.

OTTAWA  — As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Tories enjoy pointing out, one of the first words out of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's mouth when he won the party's leadership in December was a call for an election.  

"Stephen Harper, we are counting the days until the next election," Dion said. 

Now, Dion explains that he wasn't asking for an election, but saying that he'd be prepared for one. 

Well here's a memo to Dion and the Liberals. If you haven't noticed it, the election is happening now. 

And the Liberals appear to be at risk of falling into the trap they fell into in the last election campaign when they made the strategic blunder of holding back their campaign until after the Christmas holidays were over.

While the prime minister hasn't visited the Governor General yet, the pre-writ period has been going on since the Tories unveiled their first series of ads attacking Dion a day before Parliament returned from its Christmas break. 

In the last election campaign, the Tories caught the Liberals asleep at the wheel in the first weeks and defined Harper on their own terms. This time they're using the pre-writ period to define Dion. 

Three stinging television ads that are in heavy rotation on English-language television, including one spot during the highly-rated Super Bowl, have been defining Dion to Canadians outside of Quebec for more than two weeks now. 

And on Tuesday, the Tories stepped up the attack launching three more French-language ads. 

> View the new ads here

Industry Minister Maxime Bernier held a briefing for reporters at a downtown Ottawa hotel on Tuesday morning. 

The laughter coming from the 20 or so reporters watching a sneak preview of the ads was loud. Whether the Liberals like it or not, some of the new ads, which the Tories plan to have aired during Montreal Canadiens games, are funny. 

In one ad, a cardboard cut out of Dion and former prime minister Jean Chretien try to force their way out of a door that has been sealed off with yellow police tape with "sponsorship," "pollution" and "fiscal imbalance" written on it. 

Bernier told reporters that he believes the new ads will work because the ads that have played in English Canada are working. 

"Yeah, they're working," he said. "I know they're working and we know right now that what we did is very important for Canadians. These ads are showing to Canadians that Mr. Dion is not a leader and I think just by doing that it's working."

Bernier wouldn't explain exactly why he believes they're working, but one look at recent polls could provide an answer. 

The Liberals had been ahead of the Tories in the polls since mid November but two polls last week show the Tories either tied or with a seven point lead nationally. 

The ads may also being playing a role in Harper's strong leadership numbers that were revealed in an SES poll released on Monday. 

Harper's scores on "trust" and "vision for Canada" both rose 14 per cent and his competence score was up 17 per cent. 

However, a response from the Liberals to the attack ads is not expected. 

When by asked by PoliticsWatch at a press conference Tuesday if he planned to fight back with his own ads, Dion dismissed the effectiveness of negative ads. 

"I'm very confident with the intelligence of the Canadian people in both official languages," said Dion, adding that it has worked well for him in his 11 years in politics. 

Dion said when his party unveils a platform in the election campaign and contrasts it with the "very right-wing approach" of Harper and the Tories it will be "much stronger than any negative ad." 

Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff, who stars in the English-language ads and has coined the Tories' latest catch-phrase that Dion "didn't get it done," called the latest ads "tacky stuff." 

When asked by PoliticsWatch after question period if he wanted the Liberals to push back in ad form, Ignatieff said, "We don't go negative. We go positive. We've got lots to say."

"There are no plans to my knowledge for us to reply with this kind of garbage. You don't fight garbage with garbage. What you do is you go out with a positive message." 

That's fine with the Tories, who believe the ads are working well and will continue to do so especially if left unanswered. 

"They're registering with Canadians who see that Stephane Dion didn't get it done and he's just not a leader," Conservative Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney told PoliticsWatch. "We can see that already reflected in the polling."

He added that Dion's failure to respond so far reveals his "indecisiveness" and that may be why "what we see are Liberals about to have second thoughts about the decision they made last December."

:  Related Links

> Conservative Party ads (You Tube)

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