Day 10 got off to an early start in Halifax with Michael Ignatieff laying out the veterans policy outlined in the party platform – $120 million to pay the full tuitions of veterans returning to civilian life for up to four years of their college, university or technical school education. He also promised more fixes for the New Veterans Charter. And how does this differ from the NDP or Conservatives? Both of those parties are heavily weighting veterans' retraining towards trades, particularly construction (“helmets to hardhats” being the slogan). The Conservatives’ plan is short-term and transitional, with the NDP adding a few other measures about the review board and insurance payouts.
The questions were quite a bit tougher for Ignatieff now that a platform is on the table. Reporters are demanding specifics on the $2 billion promised to Quebec for tax harmonization, which is missing from the platform (it should be in the government’s fiscal framework, which they based their numbers on. If not, then Harper’s the one with the problem); why there was nothing for immediate job creation (the focus is on creating a skilled labour force so that there are trained workers to fill jobs, as opposed to Harper’s “market miracle” where the hope is lower taxes will somehow fill skilled labour shortages); the Lower Churchill (Ignatieff would be in favour of loan guarantees as part of a broader approach to inter-provincial energy infrastructure, while Harper is a late convert to green energy); where they got their corporate tax cut figures from (average independent estimates of revenue); and his cap-and-trade policy (will take time to figure out, but meanwhile they learned a lot in opposition years and are creating a permanent green home retrofit industry).
That cap-and-trade policy is already being denounced in Alberta as the return of Trudeau’s National Energy Program. Seriously.
In Toronto, Jack Layton spoke about pensions; he covered negotiating with provinces to gradually double the CPP, allowing people to top up their public pensions and amending the Bankruptcy Act to put pensioners and people with long-term disabilities at the front of the creditor line. In addition, he again brought up his plans to increase the GIS for seniors. Layton was asked about how his plan was different and how he would pay for it (he deferred to his usual line about increasing taxes on the big banks and corporations); what his CPP proposals were going to cost workers (he said nine cents an hour for employers and between $2.50 and $3 a week for employees); all the attention Harper is paying to rural NDP ridings that voted against scrapping the long-gun registry (he responded that he had proposed solutions and his MPs work hard for their regions); and all those Liberal plans that sound eerily like his (he answered that the Liberals have been stealing NDP ideas since the first Xerox machine was invented and then taking them to the shredder once elected). Err, except that the Xerox photocopier was invented before there was an NDP, but details.
After a rain-soaked ATV ride in Wainfleet, Ontario, Harper gave a hybrid of an announcement and a rally speech in a barn. Although he still used a teleprompter, he chose to use two wireless lapel microphones instead of a podium. He promised to scrap the long-gun registry (because “they just don’t get it”) and to create a hunting and wildlife conservation panel (because his is the party of smaller government). He still faced only five media questions, coming across this time as more breezy than snippy. He was asked about the logical inconsistencies of Liberal platform criticism (the numbers don’t add up, they believe in higher taxes and more spending like the '70s, again moving to that Ignatieff=Trudeau meme); those new revelations about Bruce Carson’s criminal past (he’s just learning about all these new allegations as well, and if he’d known, he never would have hired him. Oh, and he'd fix the vetting process. None of this makes sense because Carson would have needed a top-secret clearance for his job, which would have meant a thorough background check and someone that vulnerable to blackmail with that kind of bankruptcy-ridden past should have been given that kind of clearance); what will he do with a majority that he couldn’t with a minority, open the issues of abortion of same-sex marriage (oh, no – he won’t touch “those issues” as they’re not Conservative priorities, yet he couldn’t actually say “abortion” or “same-sex marriage” out loud); and the local question on the unemployment situation (he'll help by keeping taxes low, apparently the same thing that he told them in 2008).
Elsewhere, the NDP have released a new attack ad in Quebec, this time featuring barking dogs – because all anyone in Ottawa does is debate endlessly, apparently. The Quebec tagline of “Working Together” is at the end. Is their Quebec ad agency the same one that did the Telus ads?
And news of another former Liberal candidate endorsing the NDP has caused the CBC to put up a list of all of these changes to help keep everything straight.