OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper has long sought to destroy the Liberal party. He's now asking Liberals to help him do it.
The sudden and unexpected surge of the New Democrats over the past two weeks has opened the door to two distinct and disparate outcomes -- a Conservative majority or an NDP-led minority government.
But for the former to occur, Harper needs Liberals to abandon their party and join him, and Saturday he made a direct appeal to centrists of the party with dire warnings of economic calamity if the NDP were given a chance to implement their "radical" platform.
"I think the vast majority of traditional Liberals don't support such a platform," he told a rally in Liberal-held Richmond Hill near Toronto.
"I encourage all voters who feel that way and many voters who would have traditionally supported the Liberal party to support a moderate mainstream platform for the economy."
To do otherwise, he said, could result in an NDP-led government that will raise taxes and destroy jobs.
In the afternoon, Harper took the same fearsome message to another Liberal-held riding, that of former Tory Scott Brison in Kings-Hants, N.S.
Two new polls Saturday suggested the Conservatives are still shy of what would be considered majority territory.
But the new calculus created by the NDP overtaking the Liberals opens the possibility Harper's goal could be achieved without adding to the 38 per cent the party received in 2008.
It also creates the possibility NDP Leader Jack Layton could win enough seats for the Governor General to ask him to form a minority government should Harper fail to win the confidence of the reconfigured Parliament after May 2.
Asked after a boisterous rally in Burnaby, B.C., about the NDP's sudden popularity, Layton said Canadians are disillusioned with both old-line parties.
"I think people in Canada were prepared to give Stephen Harper a chance, and they found things didn't really change in Ottawa," he said.
-- Harper's campaign stops today: Stratford, P.E.I.; London, Ont.; and Abbotsford, B.C.
-- The Canadian Press