Stephen Harper kicked off the day in Dieppe, New Brunswick, by restating six job-related measures from his budget, which largely extended or expanded current programs. He took questions (from reporters who weren’t caged quite so far away this time) on why Senator Gerstein remains the party’s official agent despite being charged in the In & Out affair (apparently, it remains a “dispute with Elections Canada"); on whether he believes the attack ads his party put out on Ignatieff (hey, they’re using his own words); the lack of foreign investment guidelines, seeing as we’ve got this whole TSX deal coming up (hey, Tony Clement applies the net-benefit test, nothing to see here); and his plans to scrap the per-vote subsidy (over three years if he gets a majority government, because voters should pay for parties, not, err, voters casting votes). Harper also bizarrely claimed that it’s because of the per-vote subsidy that parties were constantly campaign-ready and we have so many unnecessary elections. Funny, when you keep hearing news stories about how all the other parties are broke, well, I’m not sure it rings true.
Over in Sudbury, Jack Layton spoke about his plans to hire 1,200 more doctors and 6,000 more nurses if he were to form the government. He’d also try to get more doctors for rural and First Nations areas, forgive student loans of doctors who practice family medicine for more than 10 years and of course, negotiate pharmacare. During questions (from reporters all sporting white paper mustaches as their April Fool's gag), he downplayed that this was trying to win back rural voters after the gun registry issue; disputed Harper’s characterization of the per-vote subsidy; and when reporters noted that the crowds are smaller and energy appears to be lacking, denied that there is any less spark in this campaign than the 2008 campaign. He also said that a certain Bloc candidate’s comments about an NDP candidate (that he would potentially lose votes in Northern Quebec because he’s aboriginal) were racist and he wants him to quit.
In London, Ontario, Ignatieff began the day by meeting with the Victorian Order of Nurses and then held a press event to talk about his much-touted family care plan. When asked if he’s ignoring jobs and wealth creation, Ignatieff defended his plan by saying his education platform was about jobs of the future and retraining for workers that need new jobs, and that family care was about flexibility in the labour market for dealing with family pressures. Asked about the discussions over the proposed pipeline to the BC coast and the existing tanker ban, Ignatieff said that although Enbridge has been frank, it has yet to prove that it would not harm the environment. On the per-vote subsidy, he spoke about how Harper was trying to import American-style, big-money, attack-ad politics, which he rejects. He also took some questions on local campaign issues, something Harper now refuses to do. When asked to clarify his remarks from last night about how he doesn’t want NDP or Green voters if they’re only out to stop the Conservatives, he said it’s because he hopes they can find something worthwhile in his own party to vote for because their core priorities align.
The Liberals put out a new ad this morning about the Learning Passport.
It’s another direct-to-camera appeal. Of course, all these positive ads make me wonder when we'll hear the cries for the Liberals to go negative in order to win.
Here is Ignatieff’s open letter to Harper about the one-on-one debate challenge.
The Edmonton Journal uses the tactic of dropping in on campaign headquarters unannounced to gauge the reaction – and gets signs that the Conservative campaign against Linda Duncan is worried about the outcome.
And Paul Martin joins Joe Clark in saying that Elizabeth May should be in the leaders’ debates.