Tories not in campaign mode: Baird

Conservative House leader John Baird says the government is preparing for the resumption of Parliament and denies his party is in "campaign mode."

Speaking a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper touted his five-year record in a campaign-style rally, Baird chastised the opposition parties for playing political games over a possible spring election that he said would threaten Canada's "fragile" economic recovery.

"We had an election just a little over two years ago; we still have two years in this Parliament’s mandate," Baird told reporters on Monday in Ottawa.

"We should be focused on doing the job for Canadians, not simply trying to renew our own contract or get a new job for ourselves."

Baird also defended the government's latest round of corporate tax cuts — which the Liberals and NDP say should be reversed in the upcoming budget.

Liberal House leader David McGuinty, appearing on CBC's Power & Politics, accused Baird of using the election talk to "change the channel" from last week's report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, which questioned the Conservatives' deficit elimination projections.

McGuinty also denied Baird's claim the Liberals were planning to raise the GST, saying there is "no talk" in his party for such a plan. But he said the Liberals would "absolutely" raise corporate tax rates back to the 2010 levels of 18 per cent if elected.

NDP House leader Libby Davies told Power & Politics host Evan Solomon the Tories will be the party responsible for triggering a vote if they "barrel ahead" with their spending priorities in the upcoming budget without consulting other parties and hearing what Canadians are telling them.

While all party leaders are denying any desire to hold a spring vote, each party has signalled its readiness to fight an election should one be triggered by confidence issues such as the budget, which is expected in late March.

Baird's morning comments came shortly after the New Democrats unveiled their newly renovated campaign headquarters in the latest sign the federal parties are gearing up for a spring election.

NDP national director Brad Lavigne told reporters on the tour that his party was prepared to negotiate with the Conservatives on key items in the budget.

"But if Mr. Harper isn't prepared to make Parliament work, we're prepared to go to the people," Lavigne said.

Meanwhile, just blocks away in Ottawa's Lord Elgin hotel, Michael Ignatieff's Liberals were beginning a three-day winter caucus retreat, which included campaign training for about 100 nominated party candidates, the CBC's Rosemary Barton reported.

Last week saw the Conservatives and Liberals trade barbs with duelling attack ads, which Baird classified as "communications materials" sent out only because Ignatieff had earlier sent signals that the opposition was going to defeat the government.

An internal memo to NDP Leader Jack Layton from the party's campaign director last week revealed the NDP was shooting its own ads last Tuesday, which were expected to focus on budget issues.

On Sunday, the prime minister lauded his minority government's achievements in a 30-minute address to party supporters to mark the fifth anniversary of the Tories' gaining power.

In his speech, Harper said his government has "delivered" on a mandate from Canadians to "shake up Ottawa." But he also warned that Canada's economic future is not "locked down" and said it was critical to "stay the course."

But the Opposition Liberals portrayed Harper's "course" as one of deep deficits, dwindling job quality, stagnant living standards and high family debt for Canadians.

"Why 'stay' that?" Liberal deputy leader Ralph Goodale wrote on Twitter on Monday.

A sign outside Sunday's Conservative rally warned participants the party would be filming the event for potential advertising.