DARTMOUTH, N.S. – Despite a stern warning that he will “mess” with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff insisted Sunday that his party won’t resort to launching personal attack ads.
Ignatieff, attending a provincial election campaign rally in Dartmouth, said the Tory’s poor record will provide enough ammunition for criticism.
“There’s enough on the record that we can attack: record unemployment, record bankruptcies, record deficit,” he said afterwards. “That should give us enough to be getting along with.”
On Saturday, at a provincial Liberal convention in Gander, N.L., Ignatieff said Harper must learn: “If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I’m done.”
Ignatieff was referring to a series of TV and Internet ads the Conservatives have produced that attack his demeanour and lengthy absence from Canada.
The campaign portrays Ignatieff as an arrogant elitist who is only interested in his own personal advancement.
His 34 years spent teaching and writing abroad is highlighted as evidence of his lack of commitment to Canada.
On Sunday, he told the Tories to back off.
“Don’t trifle with me. Don’t try this rough stuff with me,” he told reporters after helping provincial Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil rev up a crowd of party supporters in advance of June 9 election.
“I can take a punch and I can dish a punch out, that is to say … I want to focus on the record. He’s got a record.”
Last week, Ignatieff released a videotape accusing Harper of smearing all new Canadians with the ads, which refer to the Liberal leader as “just visiting.”
Ignatieff, speaking earlier to Liberal supporters at an indoor sports complex, said he believes Canadians are interested in “politics of civility,” not partisanship and mudslinging.
Ignatieff also continued to call on Harper to introduce major changes to employment insurance.
He is calling for a national minimum threshold of 360 hours to collect EI benefits – something Harper has called “an absurdity.”
“(Harper) takes the people who are in work and plays them against the people who are out of work,” Ignatieff told the crowd.
“That’s the lowest game in politics and we should stop it.”
Earlier in the day, Ignatieff hit the hustings at a mall in Bedford – a suburb of Halifax – with Liberal candidate Kelly Regan, wife of former Liberal cabinet minister Geoff Regan.
Ignatieff, an acclaimed author, autographed one of his books for one supporter, and posed for a number of pictures with children.