Jean Chrétien is warning Liberals that gun control and the Kyoto accord are dead because of Stephen Harper's Tories, darkly noting that same-sex marriage and abortion rights could be next on the Conservative government's chopping block. He even raises the return of the death penalty as a possibility.
"Unless we are bold. Unless we seize the moment. Everything we built will start being chipped away," the former prime minister writes in a toughly-worded fundraising letter. "The Conservatives have already ended gun control and Kyoto. Next may be a woman's right to choose, or gay marriage. Then might come capital punishment. And one by one, the values we cherish as Canadians will be gone."
This new Liberal fundraising effort hits some hot button issues – it doesn't end there.
Mr. Chrétien notes that he was first elected in 1963 when there was no medicare or Canada Pension Plan, Canadian flag or Charter of Rights. Nor was there a Clarity Act – which his government brought in to define the rules around holding a referendum should Quebec contemplate separation.
And he states that had the Conservatives been in power they would have "taken us to war" when the Liberals kept Canada out of Iraq – a defining moment and very popular one for the Chrétien government.
Don't forget the country's finances: Mr. Chrétien points out it was the Liberals who eliminated the deficit. This, as Mr. Harper's Tories are struggling to get the budget balanced in a tough economic climate.
This message is part of the Grit's latest fundraising effort – the Million Conversations Campaign – in which supporters donate $5 toward discussions about issues that are to take place in 2012.
The campaign ended Monday night – and in Mr. Chrétien's letter it noted the party had already raised enough money to start 808,215 conversations.
Former prime ministers Paul Martin and John Turner have also sent out letters, but theirs are not as pointed as Mr. Chrétien's. "Liberals stand for fairness, responsibility, and equality," Mr. Martin writes in his appeal. "Liberals believe that individual freedom is only possible in a just society, and that good government can bring us together to build a more prosperous, more sustainable, more united Canada, one that leads by example on the world stage."
Mr. Chrétien's appeal harkens back to a strategy the Liberals have used in the past, trying to scare Canadians into believing that the Tories have a hidden agenda. The question is could it backfire?
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae doesn't think so. "Watching the Republicans in Iowa on Saturday night (the bunch that provide Mr. Harper with his 'inspiration'), I don't think we've hit rock bottom yet," Mr. Rae told The Globe in an email Tuesday morning. "We're hitting hard and raising a lot of money. Will be announcing totals soon."
Indeed, the Liberals are pulling a page from the Mr. Harper's fundraising playbook. The Tories are no strangers to pushing every button that appeals to their base to raise funds, including bashing the CBC and those opposition MPs in rural ridings who had supported the long-gun registry.