Federal election campaigns already turning nasty

The federal election is set for May 2 and it’s shaping up to be a nasty campaign battle from C to C — coalition to contempt.

OTTAWA — The federal election is set for May 2 and it’s shaping up to be a nasty campaign battle from C to C — coalition to contempt.

Stephen Harper went on the attack Saturday with a grim-faced, tough-talking message just minutes after meeting with the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. The prime minister urged voters to give him a majority to stave off a “reckless opposition coalition.”

But Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff moved to blunt that line of attack, vowing not to form any coalition with the NDP or Bloc Quebecois and warning that the real danger is Harper’s contempt for democracy.

In a historic vote Friday, the House of Commons passed a Liberal non-confidence motion citing the Conservative government for contempt of Parliament — a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth.

Ignatieff chose the seat of Canadian democracy, Parliament Hill, to launch his campaign.

“The Harper Winter will soon be over,” he smiled, amid a phalanx of Liberal MPs in the shadow of the Peace Tower.

“We will be asking Canadians to choose between a prime minister that shows scant respect for our institutions and a Liberal team that believes profoundly that the first thing you expect of a government is respect for democratic principles.”

Harper said the Liberals can’t be trusted to keep their word and warned that an opposition coalition would be a danger to the economy and the country.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” he said. “Unless Canadians elect a stable, national, majority government, Michael Ignatieff will form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois. Imagine a coalition of arch-centralists and Quebec sovereigntists trying to work together. The only thing they’ll be able to agree on is to spend more money and to raise taxes to pay for it.”

That alarmist talk was scoffed at by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, who noted that Harper was eager in 2004 to replace Paul Martin’s minority Liberals with a Tory government backed by the NDP and Bloc.

Harper signed a letter with Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton at the time, asking the governor general to “consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options” before agreeing to call an election.

“He lied this morning. He lied,” Duceppe said of the prime minister.

Duceppe revelled in the details of his meeting with Harper in 2004 at the Delta Hotel in Montreal: “He was coming in my office saying, ‘If Martin is going to lose confidence, what do you want in the throne speech? What would you like in the budget?”’

The opposition parties have already begun pounding home their campaign message, slamming the prime minister as a secretive leader who abuses power, leads a government plagued by scandal and lavishes tax cuts on big business while doing little for average Canadians.

Layton hammered away at that theme in his campaign kick-off speech in Ottawa.

“After five years, Stephen Harper has failed to fix what’s wrong in Ottawa,” he told a cheering crowd. “In fact, he’s made it worse. You’re working harder than ever. Your household debt is at an all-time high, your retirement is less secure …

“He promised he’d finally clean up Liberal-style scandals. Instead, he just created new scandals of his own … Ottawa is broken and it’s time for us to fix it.”

In the last month, the Conservative party and four of its top officials have been charged with election overspending and two RCMP investigations have been launched against former political staffers.

While the opposition tries to focus voters on Tory scandal and contempt, Harper is keen to paint himself as the only reliable steward of the economy at a time of fragile recovery.

Harper used his first campaign rally, in Quebec City, to tout this week’s federal budget which was laden with tightly targeted tax credits and riding-specific goodies. He noted that the budget offered financial relief for families and seniors — and repeatedly highlighted the fact that he didn’t raise taxes.

Quebec City is crucial to Harper. He likely needs to hold on to the six Conservative seats in the region if he is to have a chance of winning his coveted majority. That could be a challenge given discontent over his recent decision not to fund a new arena in the city.

Ignatieff also picked Quebec for his first stop outside Ottawa, heading to Montreal where the Liberals hope to win back a seat lost to the NDP and solidify their other ridings.

Layton jetted to Edmonton where he hopes to build on the NDP bridgehead in Edmonton-Strathcona, the only non-Conservative seat in the province.

And Green party Leader Elizabeth May began her campaign in Saanich, B.C., where she’s making her third attempt — all in different ridings — to become Canada’s first Green MP.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ice shifted to the shoreline at Sylvan Lake on April 21. (Photo contributed by Andrea Swainson)
Icy shores of Sylvan Lake

A local photographer has captured how the ice has shifted to the… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

A boat sits idle on the banks of Villa Victoria Dam, the main water supply for Mexico City residents, on the outskirts of Toluca, Mexico, Thursday, April 22, 2021. The mayor of Mexico City said the drought was the worst in 30 years, and that problem can be seen at the series of reservoirs that bring in water from other states to supply the capital. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the 4th Women’s March in Los Angeles. Jenner has been an Olympic hero, a reality TV personality and a transgender rights activist. Jenner has been consulting privately with Republican advisers as she considers joining the field of candidates seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a likely recall election later this year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Jenner adds celebrity, questions to California governor race

Celebrity activist immediately stands out in a growing field

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 file photo, Jeremy Fleming, head of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in London. Western countries risk losing control of technologies that are key to internet security and economic prosperity to nations with competing values like China and Russia if they don’t act to deal with the threat, one of the U.K.’s top spy chiefs warned on Friday, April 23, 2021. “Significant technology leadership is moving East” and causing a conflict of interests and values, Jeremy Fleming, director of government electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, said in a speech. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
UK spy chief says West faces ‘moment of reckoning’ on tech

China’s Foreign Ministry condemn the remarks

Brooke Henderson, of Canada, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Canadian Brooke Henderson vaults into tie for fourth at LPGA Tour event

Henderson is sixth in the world women’s golf rankings

Switzerland’s skip Silvana Tirinzoni makes a call during a women’s curling match against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Natacha Pisarenko
Previously unbeaten women’s teams suffer setbacks at Grand Slam curling event

Top six women’s and men’s teams qualify for the playoffs.

FILE - Gal Gadot arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gadot is using her Hollywood star power to spotlight remarkable women from around the world. The “Wonder Woman” actor is host and executive producer of a new documentary series “National Geographic Presents IMPACT with Gal Gadot,” premiering Monday, April 26. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Gal Gadot spotlights women’s stories in new docuseries

First episode follows a young Black figure skating coach in Detroit

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino listens to speakers during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

New program aims to grant 90,000 essential workers and international graduates permanent status

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Most Read