CALGARY – The big guns in the Liberal and Conservative parties rode into Calgary on Saturday, but there was no showdown, only a shoot-out of words that rang out hours apart.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff got off the first volley in front of about 700 at a Stampede breakfast. He blasted Prime Minister Stephen Harper for negative attack ads and said the Liberals are a solid alternative for people fed up with the way the Tories are running the country.
The government needs to act on its stimulus package, get public finances under control and figure out a way to supply medical isotopes to everyone in Canada who needs a test or treatment, Ignatieff said.
Harper unleashed his shots at a Stampede barbecue later Saturday evening among 800 party faithful.
He promised his Conservative government won’t be pressured into making bad choices by other political parties.
Harper’s minority government could topple if the Liberal Opposition voted with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois against a confidence motion.
But Harper said he won’t be held hostage and will continue to push legislation that lowers taxes and gets tough on crime.
Harper also touted his government’s success in lowering taxes even through a global recession and warned that with any of the other political parties in power the trend would not continue.
He defended his government’s actions during the recession, pointing out 80 per cent of the government’s stimulus funding has been committed.
“No matter how much stimulus spending we do, and we’re spending a lot, they demand more, tens of billions of dollars more.”
He pointed out Canada is doing better than all other major countries in weathering the recession, and said that means taxes will still be lower once it’s over.
Harper also portrayed his government trying to get tough on crime but shackled to the actions of “the three parties of the left.”
Ignatieff will raise taxes if brought to power, Harper said, adding past Liberal promises would have led to “bloated bureaucracy” and “timid and trendy foreign policies.”
Of 11 crime bills the Tory government has introduced, just one has passed, Harper said. The others have been stalled in the House by the NDP and the Bloc and by the Liberal majority in the Senate.
Harper also criticized Ignatieff for repeatedly taking the country “to the brink of another election” and said the idea of a coalition government would be scary for the future of the country.
“But as a minority government we must be prepared for an election that could be forced on us at any time,” Harper said.
Ignatieff fired back at Tory tactics, saying attack ads that suggest Bloc Quebecois members are soft on pedophiles comprise a dirty tactic unworthy of Canadian politics.
The Liberal leader said the ads, which blast the Bloc for voting against a law that would impose minimum sentences in child trafficking cases, further divide the country.
“I’m in politics to defeat the Bloc Quebecois with real arguments rather than slurs and vicious ad hominem personal attacks,” Ignatieff told a cheering crowd.
Harper also mentioned the Bloc move in his speech, saying in French that it’s just another way the opposition fails to take action on crime. Block MPs have said they voted against the bill because it prevents judges from exercising discretion.
The Conservatives have also run attack ads that criticize Ignatieff for spending much of his adult life outside the country.
Ignatieff said there’s plenty to criticize about the federal Tories without stooping to attacks on anyone’s character or patriotism.
Some have criticized the federal Tories for not vocally supporting the province’s oilsands as strongly as the Liberal leader, and Ignatieff made it very clear that he intends to continue to stand behind the massive -and controversial – fossil-fuel resource.
“We have to be a party that understands that the beating heart of the Canadian economy, the beating heart of the future of our country, is in Alberta.”