The party leaders: Where they went and what they said on Wednesday, April 6
Conservative leader Stephen Harper continued to distance himself on Wednesday from charges that he is cocooning himself from the public and the press during his campaign. Speaking in Markham, Ont., he thanked a reporter for their “ongoing concern for attendance at our rallies" and shrugged off questions about the expulsion of a 19-year-old woman from one of his party's rallies because she’d posted a Facebook picture of herself with Michael Ignatieff. "I think it's better when you are turning people away than when you can't get people to come, but I don’t want to comment on individual cases," he said. Mr. Harper was in the Greater Toronto Area suburb to woo the immigrant vote with a promise of loans to help foreign-trained professionals get their education credentials recognized in this country. “These bridge loans will make it easier for new Canadians to find jobs that take full advantage of their experience and expertise,” he said in a Markham plastics plant.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on Wednesday brought the hammer down on a Liberal candidate in a northern Quebec riding who referred to native Canadians as “featherheads” and was revealed by the NDP to be the founder of a white-rights group. Mr. Ignatieff fired André Forbes, the candidate in Manicougan, saying “Mr. Forbes’ comments have no place within the Liberal Party of Canada.” Back on message, the Liberal leader visited the rural Quebec town of Compton, where he stopped by a hardware store and purchased a screwdriver and work gloves and accused the Harper government of trying to play wedge politics between rural and urban Canada. “I don’t want Canada with two speeds – rural and urban,” he said, adding that rural Canadians should have as good quality health care, access to the Internet and education as urban Canadians. He also defended the long-gun registry, an unpopular stance in many parts of rural Canada that he softened by promising to no longer make it a criminal offence the first time an owner is caught with an unregistered gun.
NDP leader Jack Layton was in the B.C. pulp-and-paper town of Prince George Wednesday, where he accused the Harper government of planning to privatize Canada’s health care system through a stealth strategy of neglect. “They don’t believe it’s a federal issue,” he claimed. “They want to leave it to the provinces, knowing that the provinces don’t have the resources that are necessary and privatization will become the only option.” Mr. Layton unveiled a $537-million NDP health-care pledge on home care, saying his party would provide access to home care for an additional 100,000 families a year and make home care and long-term care insured services under the Canada Health Act. He also pledged that an NDP government would help families pay to retrofit their homes to accommodate aging relatives.
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe was in the furthest-flung parts of Eastern Quebec Wednesday, flying from the Gaspe town of Bonaventure to the Magdelan Islands, a tiny archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that has a population of 13,000. While in Bonaventure, he accused the Harper government of harming the “the fishermen of the Gaspésie and the Magdalen Islands by systematically favouring Newfoundland.” He said his party will push for the creation of a sustainable fishery in the region, as well as for more favourable employment insurance rules for seasonal workers.