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NDP's biggest non-election ad campaign pre-empts Conservative attacks

Federal New Democrats are introducing their new leader to Canadians with the biggest non-election advertising campaign ever launched by the party.

A French television ad featuring Thomas Mulcair begins airing Thursday; English ads are to follow after the Easter break.

The 15-second French ad shows Mulcair rolling up his shirt sleeves, looking directly into the camera and stating simply: “We continue.”

“A government that listens to Quebecers, an economy greener and more prosperous for everyone. It’s possible,” he says.

He exhorts Quebecers to “build the future together.”

NDP national director Chantal Vallerand says Mulcair and “his positive message of fighting for people” will be aired in every region of Quebec, on the web and during popular TV shows such as Tout le monde en parle.

“Unlike with past Opposition leaders, the New Democrats aren’t just sitting and waiting for Conservative attacks,” she says.

The Tories helped demolish the past two Liberal leaders, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, with attack ads that portrayed them respectively as “not a leader” and “just visiting” Canada. The ads helped create a negative impression of the two leaders before they got a chance to introduce themselves on their own terms to Canadians.

New Democrats hope their ads will help them define their new leader in a positive way before the Tories can frame him in a negative light. The party won’t say how much it’s spending on the ads, other than to say it’s “the largest non-election advertising campaign” in NDP history.

The French ad appears aimed at reminding Quebecers that they still have a home in the NDP, despite the untimely death of Mulcair’s predecessor, Jack Layton. It was largely on the strength of Layton’s personal appeal that Quebecers delivered 59 seats to the NDP in last May’s election, vaulting the party into official Opposition status for the first time in its 51-year history.

Mulcair, a Montreal MP and former Quebec cabinet minister, won the leadership on March 24, in large part because he was perceived as the candidate best able to hold onto the party’s newfound Quebec base.