All 308 writs have dropped and the race is officially on. Early this morning, Harper headed over to Rideau Hall – with his wife, in a minivan apparently, as though to make some point about middle-class families. His Excellency officially dissolved Parliament and dropped the writs.
Harper immediately came out and gave his now-standard stump speech – the economy is fragile, there is so much instability in the world right now that we don’t need democracy and boo on the opposition coalition for trying to steal power. No mention of the contempt finding – not that you’d expect him to admit it.
But hey, he did take questions today, and wouldn’t you know it, they were all about the coalition talk. Even though Michael Ignatieff put out a press release in the morning that unequivocally put the notion of a coalition off the table, Harper said that it was all proof of Ignatieff’s “hidden agenda.” He went on to lament the Liberal leader’s lack of transparency.
Yes, you heard that right – Stephen Harper lamented the lack of transparency. The man whose own government’s lack of transparency led to a finding of contempt of Parliament.
Harper apparently didn’t enter into coalition talks in 2004, according to his own version of history. (Gilles Duceppe later called him a liar for that line.) Michael Ignatieff did in 2008 and apparently that's a totally different thing. So he put it as a choice between a “stable, Conservative majority” and an unstable Liberal coalition. Punchy and angry all the way.
Minutes later, Michael Ignatieff and a group of Liberals descended the steps of the Peace Tower. The tone of Ignatieff's response was remarkably different; it didn’t equate democracy with doom or raise the spectre of an imaginary coalition threat.
“This is not just an exercise in democracy,” Ignatieff said. “It’s about democracy.”
Ignatieff is keen on making democracy a central part of this campaign. In the robot-caller message sent out to invite people to the campaign launch, Ignatieff said that this election is about “fighting for democracy.”
Rather than speaking about visions of doom, Ignatieff spoke about equality of opportunity and how his spending priorities are different than those of the Conservatives’. He then answered more coalition questions; he reaffirmed this morning’s press release that it was off the table.