Harper needs an enemy to run against, rather than run on his government's record.
Poll after poll has shown that voters by a vast majority have stated that they do not want a Tory majority, and that they would support parties other than the Tories. Almost half of polls respondents say that they think it is time for a change of government.
Harper tried to run against Ignatieff, using his framing ads to try to define Ignatieff as an opportunistic 'come from away' man who is in politics mostly for his personal glory. The ads have been effective but not as much as the Tories hoped; despite millions spent on them, the Liberal Party is till almost neck and neck with the Tories.
The Liberals have managed to slough off some of the negative effects of the dithering by Martin and the scandal, and many voters seem to be giving them a second chance.
What do you do if you are in Harper's position, facing an election where you best result is a reduced minority government, and the worst one a majority Liberal government?
You invent a straw man and then beat it to death in a typically Canadian Conservative fashion, with half-truths, outright lies, and false innuendo.
The Harper straw man is to pretend that his party are the underdogs, running against a combined Liberal, NDP and Bloc group. And to make that work the Tories have to succeed in framing the fight as the one and only pure Canadian party (the Tories), against the morally questionable combination of the Three Musketeers – the carpetbagging Liberals, in cahoots with the godless socialists (NDP) and the illegitimate separatists (the Bloc).
Harper has already started the Tory salvo with an outright lie:
"Harper also raised the spectre of an opposition coalition — a ploy tried by the Liberals, NDP and Bloc last December to replace the government, which proved massively unpopular.
He went so far as to suggest the coalition agreement among the opposition parties is still in effect, even though the pact imploded last January when Ignatieff decided Liberals would support the Tory budget.
“We already know those guys have a deal and I don’t want to get into that kind of game,” Harper said in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario."
More lies and distortions can be expected from the Tories, who are running scared. And that means the Liberal Party has to be able to come to grips with the coalition straw man which Harper is raising as his best bet to win the most seats in the coming election.
How to do it?
By telling the truth, and by calling Harper and the Tories on their lies about the coalition.
And what is the truth?
The legitimate question right now is: Is there any agreement or arrangement between the LPC, and/or the Bloc and/or the NDP to support a minority LPC government?
The answer is No.
The critical factor for the Liberals is to make sure it is this question which is put before voters and this answer which can be given.
Who knows which parties might or might not support a minority LPC government some time in the future? Perhaps the Tories might? But that is all speculation; perhaps the LPC might win a majority - it is running to get that.
My preference would have been to honour the Coalition agreement entered into between the LPC and NDP when Dion was leader, but that coalition has been terminated by Ignatieff.
Right now, the Liberal Party is running for power on its own, aiming for a majority of seats in the House.
So the best answer to the Harper coalition straw man is the truth: Harper is telling lies; there is no such coalition agreement in existence.