It’s now Day 14; Michael Ignatieff remains in Hamilton, Stephen Harper launches the Conservative party platform in Mississauga and Jack Layton stays on the West Coast, appearing in Esquimalt for an announcement.
At the first of two rallies in Hamilton last night, people in chicken costumes waited outside, protesting Harper's refusal to debate Ignatieff one-on-one. Inside, Harper gave the very same English Canada speech he’s been using on this campaign. The only difference was the addition of the line about the tax-free savings account. There was apparently a bit of disruption, not that those of us watching on CPAC could see, when a local steelworker started shouting. Staff quickly ushered him out.
(Incidentally, here is a look at the long-term implications for the taxation system with respect to Harper’s TFSA announcement.)
A short while later, there were more protesters at Ignatieff's town hall meeting, also in Hamilton, including many steelworkers (some anti-Harper, it should be noted). Reporters at both rallies say that Ignatieff drew a bigger crowd than Harper. The crowd, estimated to be more than 1,000, was so large that many of them spilled out into the halls. He kicked off by thanking the crowd for being there “because you love your country and you care about democratic politics.” He touted his experienced team versus Harper’s “one-man band” and acknowledged that while not everyone in the room votes Liberal, he was pleased to have them there anyway. He called Hamilton a union town, a university town and a Liberal town. He noted that all Harper’s promises belonged in the future and appealed to fear; his promises were immediate and appealed to hope – which was his segue to his platform planks. Ignatieff then closed with a reminder that a prime minister must respect democracy, which Harper, who has been found in contempt of Parliament, does not.
At this point, Ignatieff took questions from the audience on his Learning Passport; what a Liberal government would do in foreign policy – especially the Afghan torture allegations (get our role at the UN back, the responsibility to protect, draw from our multicultural strength, foreign aid for programs like preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission); the F-35 fighter jets – amid yet more warnings of spiralling costs – (there’s no contract signed, so there's no penalty for cancelling them); that pesky contempt finding (it's democratic for the voters to pass judgment on the PM); education for persons with disabilities to find meaningful work (the Liberal pledge of equality is to leave no one out – it includes education and affordable housing to remove obstacles); the proposed long-gun registry changes (simplification will not mean a weaker screening or notification process); attacks on benefits for employees of Crown corporations (the federal government has to set an example)… and that’s when CPAC cut me off.
Over in Esquimalt, BC, there were oil-tanker-ban protesters outside of Jack Layton’s rally. Most of Layton’s speech was pretty standard for him, but he played up those evil senators (possibly because of the ad the party also put out yesterday – see below) and told the crowd to ask any senator who approached them while campaigning, “What’s democratic about you?” (Or maybe that their legitimacy stems from the Constitution?) Layton went on to say that Harper wants to privatize healthcare, blame the Liberals for helping to pass the HST and commit to insisting that the “bribe” – or compensation payment – stay in BC if the tax is repealed in the forthcoming provincial referendum. (Um, except that every other province would love an extra billion-plus from the federal government.) Layton went on to repeat his previous commitments on credit cards, job creation, pensions and healthcare. He then took a few shots at Ignatieff before talking protectionism.
As mentioned, the NDP has released another ad featuring that creepy animation, this time going after those senators up on charges of election fraud. Not much new to this one, other than the "chief fundraiser" isn't a terribly good likeness of either Senator Finley or Gerstein.
Here is a better look at the comments made by John Reilly, the Liberal candidate in Alberta, about sexual assaults. The former judge believes that not every single person charged with one should go to jail, as it may not be the appropriate sentence for the particular case, as there is a range of things sexual assault covers. But hey, we can’t have nuance in an election campaign.
Former Conservative senator Larry Smith, now a candidate in Lac-Saint-Louis, says it’s “normal” for Conservative ridings to get more money, which is why his riding should vote him in. (Incidentally, the Grandmothers and other groups are targeting Smith for delaying the CAMR bill (C-393) in the Senate, allowing it to die under his name when the election was called.)
And Maclean’s posts photos from Hedy Fry’s drag show at Flamingo here in Ottawa.