Rae says Tory attacks are 'character assassination'
Published Monday, March 19, 2012 10:35PM EDT
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae says that a new Tory ad attacking his record as former Ontario premier is an attempt to "change the channel" amid the ongoing robocalls electoral scandal.
The ad, released on the same day as another TV spot that praises Prime Minister Stephen Harper, criticizes Rae and states that his tenure as NDP Ontario premier was a "failure."
But Rae told CTV's Power Play Monday that he expected as much from the Conservatives, since "they've turned character assassination into a way of life."
"I knew perfectly well what the Tories were going to do," said Rae, who has never announced his intention to become full-time Liberal leader.
"Look, I'm the interim leader, I do take it as a compliment."
In the attack ad, Rae is chuckling as the narrator describes him as a premier who introduced Ontario to the "most job losses since the depression, the highest income taxes in North America, the biggest deficit Ontario has ever had."
The ad's release, coming while the Conservatives enjoy majority status and with an election several years away, at the earliest, may suggest the Conservatives see Rae as more of a threat than NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel, whom they have largely ignored.
The Conservatives launched similar campaigns against previous Liberal leaders such as Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion.
But Rae said that engaging in such blatant attacks simply turns voters off about the entire political process.
"Public opinion on its own will deal with the Tories," Rae predicted. He also pointed to the robocalls scandal and its implication of dirty tricks, noting that it will "only get worse" for the Conservatives.
"They are obviously trying to change the channel," Rae said.
Meanwhile, Rae said a prolonged recession in the early 90s was a hallmark of his tenure as Ontario premier, and he said that blaming him for the recession would be like crediting him with the Toronto Blue Jays winning the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
"It's just as logical as blaming me for effect of the recession."
Rae stressed that the Liberals would respond to the latest Conservative ad, but would refrain from crass political attacks.
"The question is how you play the game," he said. "You can't simply let them define the entire political landscape of the country."
But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney defended the ads, saying Rae has made it clear he wants to be prime minister, and Canadians have a right to know his political record.
"He is acting like he's the permanent leader, and he has a record that hangs around his neck like a millstone," Kenney told Power Play.
"A lot of people don't know, and quite frankly, it's 20 years ago in Ontario. There's a lot of new people in Canada, a lot of younger voters who have no memory of the complete disaster (and) the economic wasteland that was Bob Rae's Ontario," said Kenney.
Earlier, Kenney denied the Conservatives were attempting to interfere in the Liberal Party's leadership process.
When Rae took on the role as interim leader he agreed not to run for the party leadership -- a party policy, but one that some have suggested might be flexible.
Rae is the interim leader of the third-place Liberals, a party that was decimated in the last election while the NDP made massive gains under Jack Layton's leadership, mostly in Quebec.