Party Leaders Divulge Campaign Priorities
Prince George, B.C. – The campaign leading up to the October 19th Canadian federal election began today and will run for the next 77 days.
The majority of the party leaders presented their opening salvos this morning, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau scheduled to speak in Vancouver this afternoon.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said in Ottawa that “as it is my intention to begin campaign-related activities and it’s also the case for the other party leaders, “it’s important that these campaigns be funded by the parties themselves rather than taxpayers”, a statement he would later be questioned about by reporters.
Harper says “it’s an election about who will protect our economy in a period of ongoing global instability and secure Canada’s future prosperity. And it is an election about who is best equipped to make the tough calls to keep our country safe.”
Harper says “today as Canadians know, the global economy remains uncertain and unstable. The debt crisis in Europe continues to unfold, China is experiencing a significant economic downturn, economic recovery in the U.S. continues to be slower than anticipated.”
“These events abroad are once again impacting us here at home. Canada has continued to perform well compared to other G-7 countries but we cannot forget our focus or lose our course. Managing our economy remains our government’s top priority. Our choices have been prudent and our actions have been disciplined.”
“As a result our economy and our employment have grown steadily over six years. Our budget is balanced, our social programs have been preserved and we have lowered taxes for hard-working Canadians and delivered significant new benefits directly to Canadian families.”
Harper says the election “is also about security, not merely our security against the normal risks of criminal behavior but our security against the growing threats of an increasingly dangerous world. The rise of the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East has done more than just create an urgent and horrific crisis in that part of the world. It has also fuelled the violent, global jihadist movement that poses a direct threat to our friends and allies, and to us here at home. Jihadist terrorists have declared war on Canada and Canadians by name, and last October violent attacks were carried out on our soil.”
He says Canadian forces “do us proud by taking the fight to the terrorists who seek to harm us.” “Now is the time to face those who threaten us with moral clarity, strength and resolve.”
Harper then responded to four media questions, the first dealing with his statement that he the political parties should pay for the campaign, not taxpayers. However it was noted that he had just loaded tens of millions of dollars of additional costs on taxpayers by deciding to have a much longer campaign. Taxpayers will have to subsidize parties, candidates and will have to pay more for Elections Canada. Why should voters not conclude that you’re giving yourself a financial edge?
Harper: “Everybody knows the election date and the campaigns of the other parties, as near as I can tell, have already begun. I’m beginning our campaign today. I feel very strongly that if we’re going to begin our campaigns that those campaigns need to be conducted under the rules of the law that the money comes from the parties themselves, not from the government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources. That’s what we’re doing.” “What we do by calling this campaign is make sure that we’re all operating within the rules and not using taxpayers’ money directly.”
A question was asked about the Conservatives’ ability to manage the economy.
Harper—“I think our plan has proven itself over a long number of years now. Canada has consistently, not every month, not every week but over a period of six years now we have consistently out-performed other industrial economies. We have a balanced budget, most of them don’t, we have the lowest debt levels by far, we have the soundest financial system, we are not cutting our budgets we are making investments in critical things like trade, training, innovation and infrastructure. And that is why all the major forecasters all the major international agencies they all predict that Canada’s growth prospects are the best of G-7 countries, over the long haul.”
It was noted by another reporter that since coming to power, in 7 years out of 9 the Harper government has had deficits, added billions of dollars to public debt and recently received word from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that Canada is on the verge of a recession with a deficit this year. Harper says already has a balanced budget, is in a surplus situation, has the lowest debt among all G-7 countries and has achieved more growth and created more jobs than other G-7 countries. “We have disciplined economic management” says Harper.
Speaking in Gatineau, Quebec with a Parliament Hill backdrop NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair took direct aim at the Conservatives’ record on the economy. “Wages are falling, incomes are stagnant and household debt is skyrocketing. Middle class families are working harder than ever but can’t get ahead. Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any prime minister since 1960. The economy has shrunk in each of the last five months and many are claiming that Canada is already in another recession. Clearly Mr Harper, your plan isn’t working.”
“I want to speak with every Canadian who thinks Mr Harper’s government is on the wrong track, to every Canadian who is looking for change in Ottawa. Our plan is built on enduring Canadian values: hard work, living within your means, accountability and an unwavering commitment to focus the government’s priorities on helping you get ahead.”
Mulcair says the Conservatives are going to pass on an immense economic, social and ecological debt to future generations. “Household indebtedness has reached record levels. There are 200 thousand more jobless Canadians today than before the 2008 crisis. The few jobs that are available are either precarious or part-time, often both. Canadians want to replace the narrow vision of the Conservatives with a clear vision and a project for society focused on sustainable development.”
“Mr. Harper’s priority is to spend millions of dollars on self-serving government advertising and an early election call. My priority is to invest in affordable quality childcare to help families and the economy. Mr. Harper’s priority is to gut laws that protect our air and water while harming our reputation around the world. My priority is to strengthen and enforce environmental rules here at home and have Canada do its part in tackling climate change on the world stage.”
“Mr Harper’s priority has been to spend one hundred million dollars a year fighting First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in court. My priority is to build a respectful nation-to-nation relationship with our first peoples that recognizes inherent rights and brings us closer to reconciliation.”
Mulcair says while Harper sits on sidelines Canada has lost hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs. “My priority is to actively champion our manufacturing sectors and attract new investment to create good-paying, full-time jobs.”
He says Harper promised to responsibly manage the country’s finances. “He’s had eight deficits in a row and has added over $150 billion in debt.”
“Do you remember when Mr Harper promised to clean up Liberal corruption? In each of the last three elections Conservatives have been convicted of wrongdoing. Some have been sent to jail. One-third of the Senate is under RCMP investigation. I believe this must change once and for all.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May opened her campaign in Sidney and said she was dedicating the Green Party campaign to the memory of longtime Conservative politician Flora MacDonald, whose funeral was held today in Ottawa.
“She was my friend but she was also, for all of my life, my role model. She exemplified what it is to be Canadian and to represent the Canada that we love.” “She stood for principle, she was unwavering in her dignity, her integrity and I ask each and every one of our candidates to try to meet that high mark that she set of grace, humor, dignity, diplomacy and a selfless devotion to Canada.”
May says Stephen Harper has launched the longest campaign in Canada in 140 years while telling Canadians that it will not cost taxpayers more. “My friends”, says May, “the change in the so-called Fair Elections Act, he changed the rules to allow longer writ periods to allow parties to spend more money.”
“Now it’s true the rules are absolutely fair. The Green Party is equally allowed to spend $50 million in the next eleven weeks and quite fairly they (Conservatives) have more money in the bank because people have given them that money, quite right. But what isn’t right is to claim that the taxpayers aren’t subsidizing this election.”
“It’s going to cost Canadians tens of millions of dollars more because for all of those horrible attack ads we’re about to hear, every single attack ad we’re paying for half. And over the course of an election campaign of $50 million of course the Conservatives get more money through this change and they hope it disadvantages the others. And I say to Stephen Harper, shame on you for doing that, it costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more.”
May says “the Green Party is not a one issue party and the Green Party is certainly not a one person party.” “We believe in Canada, we know there is nothing we cannot accomplish when we roll up our sleeves, work across party lines, work across jurisdictions and turf wars. There is nothing Canadians can’t do when we decide to do it together.”
“If you want real security, if you want stability, if you want to go back to our roots and get peace, order and good government, then you need to start looking at the Green Party and our pragmatic sensible approach, our respect for our institutions, our love of our country and democracy itself.”
May says the country needs to be talking about issues such as health care, bringing in a pharmacare plan, economic steps that should be taken now to avert a recession, ways of getting Canadians back to work across the country “and how to do it in a 21st century economy that never puts one part of the country pitted against another part. We need to think like a country again.”
“We need a diversified economy, we need to respect our institutions, to protect the CBC, we need to ask questions like how is it Mr. Harper that the Wheat Board was sold to Saudi Arabia? We need to ask some questions about how Stephen Harper has sold our sovereignty down the river, specifically the Yangtze River, in the Canada-China investment treaty. We also need to repeal Bill C-51.”
As noted earlier, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will address the media in Vancouver this afternoon.