It’s now Day 11 of the campaign. Jack Layton is in Winnipeg North, where he hopes to win the riding back, Stephen Harper is in Quebec and the Liberals kick off in St John’s before heading to Quebec.
At a Conservative rally in Guelph last night, Stephen Harper gave the very same speech he’s made at every other rally so far in the campaign, albeit to a slightly more boisterous audience. There was a bit of new material several minutes into it; he spoke about how the Liberal platform harkened back to those awful "Trudeaupian" '70s and how the successive series of minority governments has become “a dangerous game.” That might hold more water if he hadn’t triggered the 2006 and 2008 elections, but hey, details. And like every speech, it closed off with a plea for security and stability.
There was a student demonstration outside the event aimed at encouraging youth to vote. In an effort to mobilize student voters, some of them are organizing on Facebook, promising wacky actions and having pre-poll parties while they are still on campus.
There are reports of students being forcibly ejected from Conservative rallies for committing thought crimes – err, having photos of Ignatieff on their Facebook page or an NDP sticker on their car. It happened in London on Sunday (Harper’s staff said they would apologize) and apparently again last night in Guelph. One more misstep on the Conservative campaign trail.
In St John’s, Michael Ignatieff began by teaching the crowd how to say enough is enough in French – pu'capab – before reminiscing about his days of underage drinking in St John’s (not that he advocates such things). He went on to say that while St John’s was once a poor city, it’s now a centre of innovation and research and is entering an age of green energy. And while they can’t change the bitterness of the past, together they can change the future of that industry; rather than engaging in constant battles with Quebec, have a vision for a broader green energy infrastructure. He moved onto the issue of Harper by asking the crowd if they trust him after the Atlantic Accord? “Just ask Danny Williams,” he said and the crowd went wild. He brought up Bruce Carson as a trust issue, adding, “He talks tough on crime everywhere but in his own office.” He continued by saying that you have to earn the trust of the people when you're in politics. The speech moved on to the five planks of his platform and his vision of equality-based social justice as being vital for economic success. He again used his story about the bulldozer-driving woman who needed childcare as the hook for the pitch. His closing message – “the politics of hope will beat the politics of fear every time.”
(On the Carson story, Harper’s denials sound increasingly implausible. The fact that Harper is now blaming the PCO vetting process is the same kind of blame-the-bureaucrat behaviour his government is famous for.)
At a London rally, Jack Layton, wearing a grey sweater over his shirt and tie, was once again framed by his twin teleprompters. The crowd was one of his largest yet, possibly because they are on the defensive after the defection of their candidate to the Liberals. After his initial attacks on how Canadians can’t trust Stephen Harper, he moved on to attacking Ignatieff and the Liberal platform, criticizing it for not having a manufacturing jobs strategy. He also called Ignatieff a “Johnny-come-lately” whose record doesn’t match his words. Remember when Layton promised he’d go after the Conservatives in this election? I wonder what happened there?
Elsewhere, the Liberals have put out another ad, this time about childcare.
This one has a few significant differences from the others. It begins with another direct-to-camera appeal that has Ignatieff saying, “This isn’t about Stephen Harper and this isn’t about Michael Ignatieff,” (signaling that he wasn’t trying to make this a partisan issue). Afterwards, a female narrator takes over to give a sound bite on the Liberael childcare plan as an impossibly cute child draws a picture. The ad closes with Ignatieff speaking about the “government you pay for.” It seems to me this is very much geared toward a female voter; the changed format is about better appealing to that demographic.
While the battle over loan guarantees to the Lower Churchill project heats up, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty reminds everyone that Ontario should be treated fairly as it moves ahead with its own $87 billion plan to upgrade its energy infrastructure. Here is some of the history of the Lower Churchill project and the resulting acrimony between Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec.
Mark Holland says the Liberals have no plans on revisiting any of the justice bills passed by the Conservatives, which does make some of their attacks on those bills sound a bit hollow.
And the Conservatives are the only party not opting to buy carbon offsets for their campaign – while they rack up the biggest carbon footprint.