OTTAWA — There weren't any whistles, but there were more than a few bells, as the marathon federal election campaign entered its final week Monday.
Stephen Harper launched a game-show style attack — complete with clanging cash register — aimed directly at front runner Justin Trudeau during a campaign event in Waterloo, Ont., in an attempt to portray the Liberal leader as a threat to the pocketbooks of Canadian families.
Harper was assisted by a local woman — a married mother, with two jobs — who slapped down $20 bills as he rhymed off the various tax credits for families that he said the Liberals would roll back.
The focus on Trudeau, almost to the exclusion of Tom Mulcair, came as the Liberal leader appeared to be gaining momentum in some polls, while they had the New Democrat leader tracking third.
"For some families, that could be a Liberal tax hike of up to $2,000 a year," Harper said.
"These are real benefits. Only the Conservative party in this election is committed to keeping these dollars where they belong — in the pockets of hard working Canadians."
But Trudeau fired back at the Conservative leader, saying he wouldn't be clawing back any of the boutique tax credits for families that Harper was warning about.
He said it was one more example of Harper engaging in the politics of fear and telling "untruths" to voters about his platform.
"He is desperate to try and frighten Canadians away from voting for a vision that is going to put more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 families and cut taxes for the middle class," Trudeau said.
He said the Conservatives don't have a record to run on, so they're resorting to "scare tactics and fear mongering," which includes "micro-targeting" specific communities to pit them against one another.
"We will call out fearful and divisive tactics, wherever they are used but we will stay focused on bringing Canadians together because that's the job of any leader," Trudeau told a boisterous rally in the Ottawa suburbs.
"I'm going to let my opponents continue to focus on me. I'm staying focused on Canadians."
Mulcair told his supporters in Maple Ridge, B.C. that his party was the only credible choice for beating the Conservatives on Oct. 19. But he was repeatedly forced to deflect questions about his party's slide in recent polls.
"In 2011, I saw the same pollsters say we'd be fourth in Quebec, so I don't pay attention to that," Mulcair said.
"I know the NDP is offering hope — hope to break an old habit that's been in place for 140 years. When you're fed up with the Conservatives, you're forced to go back to the Liberals."
Now, he said, the Canadians don't have to choose between one of the "old parties."
"For the first time in the history of Canada, there is a three-way race."
Mulcair repeated his assertion that the New Democrats need only 35 more seats to form government while the Liberals need more than 100.
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