Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 12, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - Bob Rae might want to borrow some gloves from Liberal MP and amateur boxer Justin Trudeau following the launch of a new Conservative ad campaign that attacks the interim Liberal leader's economic record as NDP premier of Ontario.
"You want to have a fight? Let's have a fight," said Rae when asked about the TV ads.
The ads feature a younger Rae who chuckles after the stark black-and-white images highlight Ontario's spiking unemployment rate, tax levels and budget deficit during his time as premier.
Rae calls the Tories "jerks" and adds they're trying to "smear" him in the way they present his record.
"Character assassination is a way of life for these guys," he said while in Toronto to help the Grit candidate trying to win a byelection in the Toronto-Danforth riding formerly held by Jack Layton.
But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the Tories aren't taking any shots below the belt.
"Well, (Rae has) asked for a debate, so we're looking forward to him defending his record of higher taxes, job-killing deficits and debt, burdensome regulations, massive unemployment and record high levels of welfare," said Kenney in Toronto.
Still, Rae insists he's the wrong target.
"I'm just the interim leader of the third party, and the NDP is about to name their new leader, so why are they going after me?" he said.
While Rae is still interim leader, the Grits have dropped "interim" from his title in news releases and on billboards in Toronto.
He also has left open the possibility he might run for the permanent leadership of the Liberals.
--with notes from Brian Dunstan