MONTREAL - Who could resist a cuddly cartoon Canadian beaver, purring as it rubs against your leg with a broad, buck-toothed smile creasing its face underneath a Mountie stetson?
The Quebec solidaire political party, that's who.
In fact, in an election ad designed to put to rest doubts about its support for Quebec independence, a stick figure gleefully boots the furry national rodent right off the screen.
The crudely drawn cartoon ad has been posted to the Internet and is one of five that the small left-wing party says is aimed at clearing up misconceptions about it, including sniping from former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, who is backing the bigger Parti Quebecois.
In the ad, a narrator brushes off any secret flirtation with Canadian federalism.
"There are rumours that members of Quebec solidaire drape themselves in the Maple Leaf and hold questionable ties to beavers," says the narrator as images show a group of robed and hooded figures gathered around a table with a Maple Leaf.
"In fact, that's not quite the case."
Though it only has one seat in the legislature, Quebec solidaire could siphon support from the PQ in some ridings. In an effort to rally the sovereigntist vote, Duceppe and others have attacking the party's commitment to independence.
The ad is meant to clear things up, Quebec solidaire says, and do it with a little humour.
It explains that Quebec solidaire would create a constitution for a new independent Quebec that would contain an inspiring vision for society, and put that document to a vote in a referendum.
"Federalist? Quebec solidaire? Not at all. Sovereigntist — but not like the others," says the ad's narrator. "The Quebec solidaire program is very clear on the fact that it's independentist."
It insisted it has no ties with the NDP and only encouraged people to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election, illustrating the point with a cartoon figure dropping the Conservative logo topped with a stetson through a trapdoor.
The ad jokingly ends by saying no beavers were harmed in the making of the new spot.
The NDP did not return calls for comment on the ad and a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office declined to comment.
Some members of the federal NDP have worked for or been candidates for Quebec solidaire in the past. One staffer has taken a leave of absence to run for the Liberals in the current election.
The NDP has instructed its elected members in Ottawa to avoid taking sides in the Quebec election and in recent months, under new leader Tom Mulcair, has been extremely reluctant to weigh in on controversial provincial issues.
There are at least four pro-sovereignty parties registered for the Sept. 4 election. Aside from the PQ, Quebec solidaire is the most established.
Duceppe took aim at Amir Khadir, the party's co-leader, in a recent interview, slamming him for voting for the NDP in the last federal election while proclaiming support for Quebec sovereignty.
The Bloc was virtually wiped off the political map in Quebec by the NDP in the 2011, prompting Duceppe to quit the leadership.