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The Globe and Mail

Opposition heaps scorn on Harper's death-penalty 'agenda'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Toronto on Jan. 13, 2011.


Stephen Harper believes in capital punishment: The Liberals believe he has a hidden agenda and the NDP finds the Prime Minister's position troubling.

In an interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday night, Mr. Harper said he believes the death penalty sometimes fits the crime. He added that he was speaking personally and would not try and bring it back into force if he forms a majority government.

Michael Ignatieff's Liberals reacted swiftly Wednesday morning, warning again of a hidden Tory agenda. "Canadians have no reason to trust Mr. Harper's claims he won't seek legislation on the death penalty after he already changed Canada's foreign policy so we no longer seek clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty in other countries," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe.

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"The only thing keeping Mr. Harper from pushing a hard right-wing agenda through Parliament is the fact he doesn't hold a majority. Instead of coming clean with Canadians on his agenda with actual government legislation, Mr. Harper has sanctioned private member's bills within his caucus to drive his agenda while keeping his hands clean. He knows full well the values of his hard-right base don't match the values of most Canadians."

The position was later echoed by Liberal MP David McGuinty, who said Mr. Harper can't be trusted when it comes to abortion and capital punishment. Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, the Opposition House Leader accused the Prime Minister of running a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" campaign on moral issues.

"If Mr. Harper is genuinely in favour of capital punishment then he should say so and bring a bill to floor of the House of Commons," Mr. McGuinty said.

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, meanwhile, said Mr. Harper is giving credibility to capital punishment as a "viable, useful tool for a society" - a stand he finds "regrettable."

Given "all of the facts that militated against capital punishment, how it's a useless tool in deterring or controlling crime, all of the wrongful convictions we've had," the Windsor MP told The Globe expected the Prime Minister would "simply make a blanket statement that he or she was opposed to capital punishment."

But it seems Mr. Harper has again defied expectations.

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