While Ignatieff was the first up this morning and could have seized the advantage by announcing the first policy of the campaign, he and Liberal MP Mark Holland (Ajax-Pickering) instead used a press event to talk about the Harper government’s record of waste. There was plenty of talk about the G8/G20 – yet no mention of going after the massive civil liberties abuses that took place, even though the Liberals on the Public Safety committee recommended a public inquiry take place. There was the usual talk of jets and jails, along with the $130 million spent on advertising, $30 million in consultants, and the size of the deficit. Ignatieff also drew the link between the government’s waste and the federal money spent on healthcare, noting that upcoming 2014 deadline, and Ignatieff repeated his pledge not to raise taxes on families or small businesses.
Ignatieff promised a “costed, imaginative announcement” tomorrow, apparently to do with education, but he could have got ahead of things today and didn’t. He also promised the full, costed platform would be out within a week.
No, it was Harper who seized the first major announcement, in a tightly controlled “average family” backyard in Saanich, announcing that once the deficit was slain in five years (or so, give or take, depending on whether you believe the PBO’s figures that the deficit is structural), he would introduce income splitting for families. And then he recited a bunch of “tax-raising coalition” red herrings.
But while Jason Kenney says he first proposed income splitting to end the “marriage penalty” in 1997, and the Green Party points out that this is in their platform, there is something that should be pointed out about the whole notion of income splitting; it’s a major sop to social conservatives and the religious right, who see this as a measure to make it easier to keep women at home raising children. This is an attack on attempts to get affordable childcare to Canadians, just as much as cutting the former Liberal childcare plans in favour of the $100/month childcare cheques is, using the same rhetoric – that Canadians deserve the “choice” to raise their children as they see fit rather than be forced into a one-size-fits-all, Ottawa-knows-best childcare system. Which is, of course, absurd, but those are the talking points.
The strategy is known as a mommy war – pitting working mothers against stay-at-home ones, and social conservatives and the religious right lap it up. And yet, the media isn’t focusing on this, nor are any of the other party leaders. The other three leaders all made preemptive attacks on the policy – Ignatieff pointing out it was five years down the road, Duceppe wondering why it wasn’t in the budget, and Layton wondering why Harper can’t help families right now. But none have pointed out that this is an attack on childcare policies, which Harper is getting in under the radar.
For his part, Jack Layton held a rally in Regina this morning, again arranging the crowds to be mostly behind him, with only a couple of rows of spectators between him and the media riser. His local messaging included a shout-out to recent Canadian Wheat Board elections and how only New Democrats can take on Conservatives in Saskatchewan (even though there are no NDP MPs from Saskatchewan, and none who beat Conservatives, even though most came in second).
Layton did make a policy announcement – under the theme that Harper failed to clean up Ottawa, he wants to make it illegal for parties to appoint insiders to the Senate, or to allow senators to fundraise “on the public dime.” Yes, the same Senate he wants to abolish. Never mind that he fails to make a distinction between how party insiders appointed to the Senate are any different from insiders added to party lists in a proportional representation system (such as he gave a shout-out to), or how senators already are forbidden from using parliamentary resources to fundraise, just as MPs are (or that MPs also fundraise for their parties). But hey, the Senate is evil!
And Elizabeth May talked about youth unemployment on YouTube.
Elsewhere, PostMedia looks at the facts behind several of Harper’s (bogus) election trail claims.
The Toronto Star looks at the way in which the Conservatives are targeting the GTA, and includes some biting comments from Rob Oliphant (who also promises that the Liberals will take Trinity-Spadina back from the NDP).
And here’s an odd robo-sexual tale from the campaign trail.