Day 17 finds Stephen Harper and Jack Layton in Ottawa to get ready for the leaders' debates on Tuesday and Wednesday. And Michael Ignatieff? He’s off to nearby Kingston, having spent yesterday doing his debate prep.
Harper was at a dairy farm in Quebec to give a largely rote speech. He promised a national strategy for agricultural exports and to pump $10 million into helping farmers market their products abroad while still protecting supply management in Canada. (As Paul Wells noted, doesn’t this negate his promise for a European Union free-trade agreement?) During questions, Harper was asked about the debates (he's looking forward to selling the message of a strong majority government); past opposition to the supply management subsidies (we’ll keep doing what we’re doing with trade); those phantom spending reductions (they’ll find “modest reductions” in operational spending); Trudeau, as he keeps bringing up the '70s (it's not fair to say anything as he can’t defend himself); whether the region would be treated in the same way if they didn't vote Conservative (you get better representation with Conservatives); and finally, he was challenged to produce the secret memo guaranteeing the low cost of the F-35 fighter jets (apparently, it’s in the memorandum of understanding – even though that protects only against rising development costs and not procurement costs).
Jack Layton launched his platform in Toronto; he kicked off his speech talking about how it was time to be there for seniors in the same way that the NDP has always been for the rest of us. He spoke about how Harper brought in the HST, didn’t fix the scandals in Ottawa and only made things worse. He then went after Ignatieff, saying that he isn’t the answer – he’s part of the problem. Layton said that Ignatieff’s words don’t match his actions and then launched into a lengthy condemnation of previous Liberal promises. From there, he laid out the five priorities of his platform and promised results in 100 days post-election. (Never mind that there’s a summer recess in there.) He then signed the platform to show that he was serious about it.
Layton also kicked off his launch with this video:
In the town hall portion that followed, he once again went after Ignatieff on childcare. Layton was asked about the costs of education (we need more grants and to control costs); fixing Ottawa (we need proportional representation); looking after seniors; the NDP justice agenda (we don’t believe in endless construction of prisons and will focus on prevention); and homelessness.
When the floor was opened to the media, he took questions on job creation (we will focus on small business and targeted tax incentives); the networks' decision about moving the French debates to Wednesday to avoid a scheduling conflict with a hockey game – no, seriously (the networks need to make a decision, which they did); his contradictions on HST compensation (it’s an issue of fairness); how he’ll be skimming millions off a cap-and-trade system when he opposed a carbon tax (they’re not at all the same thing); his comment that New Democrats in power have the best track record for fiscal management; whether the NDP platform was too close to the Liberal platform (they have no plans for doctors or job creation); corporate tax rates (they need to be below American levels as they're our largest trading partner); another party getting a minority (that’s a hypothetical question, we’re in this to win); and the Champlain Bridge (there’s infrastructure funding in the platform).
The day closed with a Harper rally in Saguenay; he gave a largely new speech that touched on the importance he places on the Quebec regions. He spoke about CFB Bagotville having a new squadron thanks to Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Denis Lebel's defending forestry. From there he discussed his low-tax plan and “backdoor immigration,” and how he would control expenditures and punish violent crime without raising taxes. Harper continued his tactic of painting the Bloc as a Montreal-centred party and falsely claimed that Duceppe has not left the city during this campaign. And then, with his usual plea for a majority, that was it.
Elsewhere, The Canadian Press has obtained a report detailing the red tape and turf wars that helped to kill the HIV Vaccine Initiative.
It seems that Harper quietly increased the maximum-allowed salaries for political staffers and gave a 50 percent increase in their maximum severance pay.