It's starting this week with the electoral equivalent of an aerial bombardment — two new, pugnacious online ads detailing what New Democrats dub the record of corruption and mismanagement under Harper.
The paid ads are being targeted through social media at voters in ridings in Ontario and across the West that the NDP believes it can wrest away from the Conservatives.
And the party intends to follow up with a ground assault next week, sending Leader Tom Mulcair on an eight-day tour of some of the most fertile of those ridings in the crucial battleground of Ontario.
The tour is expected to include ridings in the Greater Toronto Area, southwestern Ontario and the northern Ontario riding of Kenora, where former provincial NDP leader Howard Hampton is taking on Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.
The double-barrelled offensive is aimed at building on the party's breakthrough success in the 2011 election by targeting some of the 106 ridings where the NDP finished second to the Tories. And it's designed to leave voters fed up with the Harper regime in no doubt about which opposition party, buoyed by momentum in the polls, is taking the fight directly to the Conservatives.
The online ads, one in English, the other in French, are the most negative produced by the NDP since Mulcair became leader and come just two weeks after Mulcair vowed to eschew personal attacks.
While he deemed "robust debate" comparing policies and track records to be within bounds, Mulcair said earlier this month: "The personal stuff — that’s just not my cup of tea. I don’t go down that street.”
Some of the targets in the latest ads might beg to differ.
To a soundtrack of ominous music, the ads show the faces of a series of Conservatives who've been charged, convicted or investigated for various offences, including chief fundraiser Irving Gerstein, former Harper adviser Bruce Carson, disgraced senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, former cabinet minister Peter Penashue, former Conservative candidate Saulie Zajdel and Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona, the only person convicted for orchestrating misleading robocalls during the last election.
Each of the mug shots is stamped with the alleged crime perpetrated by the individual: illegal lobbying (Carson), breach of trust (Brazeau), misleading voters (Sona and Gerstein), bribery (Zajdel), misuse of funds for housing (Duffy) and so on.
The ads wrap up with devastating video footage of Harper's former principal secretary and chief firefighter on ethical issues, Dean Del Mastro, shuffling in leg irons and handcuffs into a police vehicle after being sentenced last month for cheating on his campaign expenses in the 2008 election.
"Have you had enough? It's time for change in Ottawa," the English ad concludes.
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