In speeches and media availabilities thus far, the talk of a coalition continues to dog the campaign. But wait – it’s not the theoretical coalition bogeyman that Harper keeps hammering on about, but rather the 2004 coalition agreement that Harper made with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe to bring down Paul Martin. Harper insists it wasn’t a coalition – just a cooperation agreement. Duceppe says Harper is a liar; they were absolutely talking about a coalition. Layton defers a little: he won’t call him a liar, but he says it’s why Harper can’t be trusted. So there you have it. In 2011, we’re still talking about 2004.
Otherwise, it is day two of the campaign and there have been no announcements by any of the parties. At a speech in Brampton this morning, Harper kept talking about the coalition bogeyman (21 times) while promoting everything in his budget.
In his speech this morning, Duceppe went after Harper for his 2004 coalition agreement, calling him a liar 15 times in 30 minutes. Waving the signed agreement in his hand, he kept up the attack on Harper.
At a speech in Montreal, Ignatieff continued his theme of the election being about democracy and his being there to serve. There were local shout-outs: the spending on the G8/G20 summits would have been enough to rebuild the Champlain Bridge; the choice before Quebeckers is either to vote Bloc and get Harper or vote Liberal and get a government that can change things, especially during the upcoming healthcare negotiations; and the issue of Quebeckers choosing the order in which they can list their identity. There was another new line at play: Ignatieff is the only leader who has the experience to repair Canada’s place in the world.
In Surrey, BC, Layton kept up his usual themes: “Ottawa is broken” (what does that even mean?) and only the NDP can beat Conservatives. Using location-specific messages, he cashed in on the populist anger over the HST in BC and gave shout-outs to both the Komagata Maru apology (that hasn’t yet happened in the House) and the tenets of Sikhism. His takeaway message was “Together we can build the Canada we want.”
The first cynical tweet of the campaign: Stephen Harper congratulates his son on something. Note: He’s never taken to the Twitter machine before to say anything about (or to) his family. To start doing so now is merely an attempt to burnish his “family man” credentials (just like arriving at Rideau Hall with his wife in a minivan).
Incidentally, Harper is clamping down on reporters even more in this campaign; he's allowing only four questions per stop, which is down from one per reporter in 2004 and one per reporter on alternating days in 2008. How long before reporters get fed up and stop showing up?
On the Liberal campaign, reporters were given goody bags that included a pair of stick-on Ignatieff eyebrows.
On the NDP campaign, it seems the staff were trying to limit photos of Layton, and Layton was taking no questions from reporters on the first day. He did so on the second day, however (and was asked mostly about the 2004 deal).
And elsewhere, the Liberals are calling out the Conservative candidate in Ruby Dhalla’s riding. It's alleged that he abused his power as a candidate before the election by being made Jason Kenney’s “designated agent.” This has come up in QP several times, and the Conservatives have simply dismissed it.