Jack Layton's attack on Michael Ignatieff's attendance record is proving to be a winning strategy for the NDP, especially in Toronto, according to the party's national campaign director.
"Ignatieff's attendance is playing hard," Brad Lavigne told The Globe. "It gets to the gut level. On the doorstep it's palpable," says Mr. Lavigne.
During the English-language debate, the NDP Leader landed what some are calling a knock-out punch when he accused Mr. Ignatieff of having the "worst attendance record in the House of Commons of any member of Parliament."
"If you want to be prime minister, you'd better learn how to be a member of Parliament first," Mr. Layton charged. "You know, most Canadians, if they don't show up for work, they don't get a promotion. You missed 70 per cent of the votes."
Mr. Ignatieff did not have an answer and the Liberal Leader left the debate weakened.
The NDP has been making the most of it. It has released ads criticizing Mr. Ignatieff's attendance. In addition, Mr. Lavigne said it has tested the issue in focus groups where party strategists found it has resonated deeply.
He said the attendance issue is helping NDP fortunes in Toronto ridings, including York South-Weston, which has been represented by Liberal Alan Tonks since 2000. They are also seeing - at least according to Mr. Lavigne - pick-up in Parkdale-High Park, which they lost to Liberal Gerard Kennedy in 2008. Peggy Nash, president of the NDP and a former MP, is trying to regain it.
Mr. Lavingne said Canadians know from their own jobs that there are consequences to missing work. He noted that Mr. Ignatieff missed 87 votes in 2010. Twenty five of those were to his "open Mike" town-hall meetings, which he held as a rookie leader in the Commons in a bid to get himself know outside Ottawa.
The NDP, meanwhile, is continuing to release new ads. Its latest, " Together we can do this," features upbeat music and the NDP Leader declaring: "You know I am a fighter. And I won't stop until the job is done."
Mr. Lavigne said the ad, which stands in contrast "the attack ads of the Liberals and Conservatives," will stand for another 24 hours before the another television spot is rolled out.
The serenity of struggling Liberals
You know a political leader is in trouble when the word "serene" is trotted out to characterize their mood.
Paul Martin's team used it repeatedly in the lead-up to the 2005-06 election campaign, which he lost to Stephen Harper. Mr. Martin was often described a being "serene" about the decisions he had made. At the time, The Globe's John Ibbitson quoted former Martin cabinet minister Reg Alcock about the difficulties Mr. Martin was having as prime minister: "Mr. Alcock describes a leader who will 'chase you around the table 50 times' making up his mind, but who is 'serene' once that decision is made."
On Monday, Mr. Ibbitson writes of the current Liberal Leader: "Languishing in the polls, challenged on his right by the dominating Conservatives and on his left by a resurgent NDP, Michael Ignatieff says he entered the final week of this federal election campaign in a mood of 'serene optimism'."
This is where the Liberals are at as they try to stare down sliding polls that show them now in a dead heat with the NDP.
And although Mr. Ignatieff claims serenity, there is nothing serene about the new Liberal attack ad on the NDP and Conservative platforms. It describes Jack Layton and Stephen Harper as "two sides of the same coin."