Jack Layton was in Winnipeg for a rally, where he was introduced by the premier; Layton talked about spring coming, and how the winds of change were blowing all across the country. He said that for too long other parties have wanted to divide Canada rather than bring it together; he said that people don’t want miracles from Ottawa, but “practical solutions” – never mind that he can’t actually do most of the things he promised, let alone within 100 days. His promise of the day was a new child benefit of up to $700 over four years. He said other parties will be going on the attack, and he too would go on the attack – against healthcare wait times, seniors' poverty and so on. When he met the media, he was asked about his candidates on vacation (we need fixed election dates – never mind that they’re antithetical to the basic principles of responsible government or a government's needing to maintain the confidence of the House, rather than simply running out a clock); Duceppe’s comments (look at everything I’ll do for Quebec); his commitment to missing and murdered aboriginal women (funding Sisters in Spirit); his commitment to asymmetric federalism (look at all our proposals for transit, etc); can you work with Ignatieff after the slams against the NDP platform (I can work with anyone); Bay St's denouncing them (I disagree, we’ll provide stability, NDP provincial governments have balanced budgets, “Old Ottawa” also committed to tax havens, protecting their friends); arenas in Quebec, Edmonton and a stadium in Regina (they provide infrastructure funding, communities decide priorities); no seriously, you’ve got a bunch of absentee candidates (I'm proud of our diverse team).
Michael Ignatieff held an event at a high school in Sault Ste Marie – for an audience that mostly can’t vote. Now, I can’t really tell you what he said because CPAC didn’t air it, but based on things the reporters on the scene said on the Twitter Machine, he did say that he doesn’t support legalizing pot, but would decriminalize small amounts. He took questions from the media about why he was before an audience who doesn’t vote (parents of the kids have issues, education is the future); what do you need to hear from Chrétien tonight to pull ahead (he’ll say he led three majority governments and cleaned up the books, that we have a choice of governments); taking votes from NDP who could take away Conservative votes (I’m here to form a government, get rid of Harper, and only we can do it); you attack the NDP platform but aren’t there similarities (similar values but vastly different on costing, abilities); economists’ fears of an NDP surge (he kind of dodged that); whether he smoked pot (yes, as a young man, but there are better things and more interesting things for young people to do, including a glass of wine after dinner to relax); uniting the left (we’re a centrist party, not a party of the left, and he gave a shout-out to gay equality as part of their commitments); you talk about democracy but you didn’t get elected as leader really in 2008 (I was elected by acclamation by delegates, then I went out for two years to engage with the rank-and-file); what do you think when people still repeat attack ads to you (it’s never been about me, it’s been about the kind of Canada you want); what about people who wonder if this is the decline of the party (the base is back, polls don’t measure the ground game); local issues of steel plants shutting down and decline in forestry (we need a strengthened FedNor, forestry promoted in places like China, education key to development); and why are you being so polite and not attacking your opponents (talking about serious choices, Layton’s figures don’t add up, but I don’t want to disseminate fear).
Stephen Harper was in Waterloo at a hockey glass factory and made a reannouncement about small business plans (not that I saw because CPAC didn’t air it either). They did air the media Q and A, where he was asked about the NDP surge (stable majority Conservative government!); issues of trust; if they trust Layton but not you (strong, stable Conservative government!); is your Quebec strategy not working (optimistic, Quebeckers are one of the most overtaxed and will want to be part of a government that won’t raise taxes); no, seriously, you’re not answering the question (strong, stable, Conservative government!); and splits in local community over transit funded by federal government (up to the community).
Michael Ignatieff has an open letter to Quebec (hint – a vote for Layton or Duceppe is a vote for a Harper government).
Here are some of Ignatieff’s thoughts on the Indian Act.
Paul Wells tries to make sense of Layton’s responses to some fundamental Quebec issues, the constitution and their place in Canada, and comes away with a lot of unanswered questions.