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Politics Harper attacks ‘liberal elites’; touts Tory record on economy, crime in speech to B.C. supporters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses supporters during a party gathering at Krause Berry Farms in Langley, B.C., on Wednesday August 20, 2014.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper attacked a new group of liberals on Wednesday, denouncing elites he predicts will try to sell voters questionable political goods in the federal election next year.

The warning came as Mr. Harper spoke to hundreds of supporters gathered for a rally on a farm in this rural community east of Vancouver – a partisan stop ahead of the prime minister heading to Whitehorse to begin his annual tour of the Canadian north.

And in an unusual reference, Mr. Harper also suggested The New York Times was no friend to the federal Conservatives, who are seeking re-election next year and maintaining a run in government that began in 2006.

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Mr. Harper said other parties will ask Canadians not to think about the choice between change and the strong economy, safer country and stronger position in the world the Conservatives will tout to win votes.

"You can listen to the liberal elites, and the liberal media pundits and liberal interest groups and you can hear the plan: Tell Canadians there's something new and exciting," Mr. Harper said, speaking to an audience of several hundred.

But he suggested there would be no details beyond the plan being "new."

"They're going to tell you this. Just close your eyes, dream but don't ruin it by asking any hard questions. If you want something from the government, whatever you want, they're going to tell you you can have it. Don't worry about how it's going to be paid for."

The prepared text of Mr. Harper's speech showed he was not referring to upper-case Liberals, but rather liberals in general.

Moments later, Mr. Harper took a soft-spoken jab at The New York Times, which has been criticized in the United States for a liberal bias, but is unlikely to have much of a role in the Canadian election.

It came as he noted that the Times had recently found Canada's middle class to be the best off of all the countries it studied. Mr. Harper, referencing the study said, "The New York Times – no friend of ours." He did not elaborate.

Mr. Harper used much of his half-hour speech to tout his government's managing of the economy, getting tough on crime, and being unapologetic in taking such stands on the global stage as denouncing "Putin's thugs" and Hamas.

He pointedly denounced the idea of Canada being an "honest broker" or having a "balanced foreign policy," and said, instead, that Canada "must be strong in a dangerous world, strong in our values, strong in our words, strong in our actions."

There was no reference, by name to federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, but several specific references to federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whom Mr. Harper denounced for his comments on understanding the root causes of terrorism, allowing the budget to balance itself and praising the government of China.

The prime minister did not offer specific policies he would pursue in another term, but noted the expected balanced budget next year would come with lower taxes and increased funds for job-creating investment. "We will be doing all of those things at once," he said.

Mr. Harper, who said his party is aiming to "paint (B.C.) Tory blue" in the next election said B.C. will be critical to the outcome, noting the province is getting six more seats. The Tories have 21 of 36 seats while the NDP have 12, the Liberals two and the Green Party one.

"I think B.C. underestimates its weight in the House of Commons," he said.

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