CBC News Federal Election

The Campaign

The Campaign Tale: A Daily History

Day One: Sunday, May 23
Paul Martin and his wife Sheila stroll to the Governor General's residence in Ottawa, where the Liberal leader asks Adrienne Clarkson to dissolve Parliament and call an election for June 28. Martin then gives a speech saying this campaign will be about what kind of Canada voters want... The other party leaders beg to differ. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says it will be about throwing out an old, corrupt Liberal government that has wasted taxpayers' money. The NDP's Jack Layton says it will be about making positive choices to build a "green and prosperous" country. And Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois says that for Quebecers, it will be about sending the Liberals a strong message that the goals and flawed delivery of the sponsorship program insulted the province in a deep and lasting way, and sending a team of MPs to Ottawa that can truly fight for Quebec's interests.

Day Two: Monday, May 24
The CBC releases a series of "mood" questions from an Environics poll it commissioned just before the election, showing that Canadians are in a grumpy, cynical mood as the campaign begins and don't trust any of the politicians to keep any of the promises that will be made in the next 35 days... Touring the Atlantic provinces on Victoria Day, Paul Martin pounds home his message that Harper's plan to lower tax rates to below levels in the United States will gut social programs Canadians need and value... Stephen Harper pledges to support official bilingualism and asks Quebecers to vote for the Conservatives in an effort to defeat the Liberals rather than "waste" their votes on the Bloc Québécois.

Day Three: Tuesday, May 25
The biggest story of the day is Martin's health-care platform, which promises billions over five years to launch a national homecare program, shorten waiting times for things like cancer and heart treatments and add more family doctors by fast-tracking how foreign-trained physicians are approved to practise in Canada... Harper is in Atlantic Canada, trying to convince voters that he's on their side despite being haunted by his own past description of the region as having a "culture of defeat"... Jack Layton says for the first time that he will deliver balanced budgets, and proposes using money from the Canada Pension Plan to retrofit energy-leaking older homes and business premises.

Day Four: Wednesday, May 26
As Harper pledges to let Newfoundland and Nova Scotia keep revenue from offshore energy resources without having their equalization payments clawed back, former Tory cabinet minister John Crosbie muses about running in the Newfoundland riding of Avalon for the party he once reviled... Martin has to take time out from campaigning to reassure Canadians in the wake of American stories warning that a terrorist attack in North America is extremely likely this summer... Layton releases a platform of 355 different proposals with a price tag of about $61 billion over five years, including tax increases for well-off Canadians and corporations. During an evening event, Layton says he holds Martin responsible for the deaths of homeless people because affordable housing projects slowed to a crawl when his rival was Liberal finance minister during the 1990s.

Day Five: Thursday, May 27
Martin's people attack Layton over his homeless death comments. Harper criticizes Layton's tactic, but then says Martin shares some of the blame for military deaths in ancient and unreliable SeaKing helicopters, which he says should have been replaced years ago... Alfonso Gagliano is back in the headlines; the former Liberal cabinet minister who has been implicated in the sponsorship scandal sues Martin and his government for $4.5 million, saying he was wrongfully dismissed from his job as Canadian ambassador to Denmark in February... Harper is having a bad day too; his party's official critic on bilingualism, Scott Reid, resigns his post late in the evening after saying in a Moncton newspaper that his party would rewrite the policies put in place during the Trudeau era... Green Party Leader Jim Harris says he may go to court to seek a spot in the televised leaders' debates on June 14 and 15, based on what he calls growing public support for the party that has never elected a member to the House of Commons.

Day Six: Friday, May 28
Speaking to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Martin says he will hand over a long-promised chunk of federal gas tax revenues within the next five years, eventually amounting to $2 billion a year, so that cities can repair aging infrastructure and build public transit systems. He also promises to boost spending on assisted housing by $1.5 billion over the next half-decade... Layton says he will repeal the federal Clarity Act if elected, and if a referendum on sovereignty is ever successful, he will recognize Quebec's declaration of independence... Vandals write anti-gay messages on the walls of Winnipeg-area Liberal candidate Glen Murray's office.

Day Seven: Saturday, May 29
Polls published in national newspapers buoy a growing number of predictions that the Liberals will win a minority government at best... In what the Globe and Mail calls a "fiery speech" in Quebec City, Martin begs Quebecers to support the Liberals, attacking Layton's position on the clarity bill and the Conservatives for their divided support of official bilingualism... Harper launches his personal riding campaign in Calgary Southwest, then flies to British Columbia for a campaign rally... Layton asks union members attending an Ontario Canadian Union of Public Employees convention in Toronto to punish the federal Liberals for promises broken in the recent provincial Liberal budget... Earlier in the day in Sault Ste. Marie, Martin had promised to resign if he did not keep his key promises on health care, more aid for cities and balancing the budget while maintaining social programs.

Day Eight: Sunday, May 30
The leaders of the top two parties get some rest. Martin goes fishing with his family and accumulates two bass and a bright red sunburn. Harper also has a quiet day... Layton shakes some hands at an arts festival before flying west, but his wife and fellow candidate, Olivia Chow, gets into an altercation in front of rolling TV cameras with Toronto-area Liberal candidate Dennis Mills, accusing him of "screaming" at her... Duceppe is hard at work, travelling to the Gasp� region of Quebec and promising to improve employment insurance benefits.

Day Nine: Monday, May 31
Harper releases his party's defence pledges, which includes an extra $1.2 billion a year for the military, a gradual increase in troop numbers to 80,000 (up from the current level of 52,400) and a pledge that Parliament, not cabinet, will debate and decide on troop deployments in the future... The Conservative leader confirms he has been consulting Mulroney-era officials about organizing a transition to power in the event he wins a minority government, possibly forming an alliance with the Bloc Québécois on some issues. Duceppe says he will work with "those who want to support Quebecers' interests" but backs away from talk of a formal alliance. The Liberals and NDP both condemn the thought of any federal government co-operating with a separatist party... The Liberals launch a new series of TV ads, one of which showcases three high-profile former NDPers now running for the Liberals in British Columbia... The Canadian Press reports that Martin's campaign team has turned to former Chr�tien confidants for help... Speaking to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Layton repeats platforms announced the previous week and warns mayors and councillors that they can't trust Martin's promises... Finally, citing his age, John Crosbie says he won't run for the Conservatives in Newfoundland after all.

Day Ten: Tuesday, June 1
Martin aims his campaign at seniors and the disabled, promising to raise Guaranteed Income Supplement payments by $433 a year for single people and $700 a year for couples, with cost of living increases on top of those amounts. He also pledges $200 million a year for families caring for senior and disabled relatives... Harper walks through a possible minefield after candidate and health critic Rob Merrifield says women wanting abortions should be required to go through third-party counselling. The Conservative leader insists he has no plans to re-open the abortion debate, at least in a Conservative government's first term. Harper also announces his party's justice platform, which includes scrapping the gun registry and using the money to set up a more complete national sex offender registry and hiring 200 more RCMP officers... Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and two of his Liberal cabinet ministers jump into the fray, warning Canadians that Harper is making expensive promises he will have to break. McGuinty still refuses to apologize for breaking his own 2003 election promise not to raise taxes, a move many say has crippled federal Liberal support in the province... Two Martin cabinet members, Veterans Affairs Minister John McCallum and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, show up at Harper events in the Toronto area to ambush and challenge him in front of startled reporters... Campaigning in British Columbia, Layton attacks both Harper and Martin on the issue of health care privatization.

Day Eleven: Wednesday, June 2
Harper unveils part of his economic platform in front of a Toronto Board of Trade audience, promising to lower business taxes while reviewing all corporate grants, loans and subsidies and cutting $4 billion from the $18 billion now spent on those items. Martin warns that Harper's fiscal promises would "return Canada to an economic period of great darkness"... Hot-button social issues get more attention as Harper says his party would withdraw same-sex marriage questions the Liberals directed at the Supreme Court of Canada and instead conduct a free vote in Parliament on the issue. If most MPs voted in favour of the traditional definition of marriage, the Conservatives would draft a new law reflecting that - and Harper won't rule out using the constitution's notwithstanding clause to protect it against future court challenges... Layton pledges to build 10,000 wind turbines at a cost of $10 billion, reduce exploration incentives for oil and gas and introduce an emission credit system that would have polluters pay for wind energy... Meanwhile, Layton and Harper both say they will not attend D-Day anniversary ceremonies in France this weekend, as Martin is planning to do. Instead, both leaders have given their reserved spots on the trip to Second World War veterans... Green Party Leader Jim Harris lashes out at Canada's major broadcasters for their refusal to let him take part in the leaders' debates on June 14 and 15. CBC and others reply that poll numbers showing the party's level of voter support at 5 to 6 per cent going into this election are unreliable, and point out that the Greens have never elected a federal politician in Canada though they have been around for some time.

Day Twelve: Thursday, June 3
Martin travels to his hometown of Windsor, Ont., to release the Liberals' full platform, promising among other things to increase armed forces and reserves by 8,500 for peacekeeping initiatives and fund a $5-billion national child care program creating 250,000 licensed spaces within five years. The total spending on new social programs and the military will be $27 billion, signaling a turn to the left for the former chief Liberal deficit killer. Layton immediately points out that many of Martin's promises are already in the NDP platform, the difference being that the NDP would keep its promises... Harper, for his part, uses an event in Guelph, Ont., to unveil broad cuts to personal income taxes and EI premiums that will eventually cost the federal coffers $16.4 billion annually. He also promises three cents a litre from federal gas taxes will go to municipalities if they pledge to spend it on new transit, road and sewer infrastructure... At the same event, a Harper supporter throws a punch at a gay-rights activist trying to question the leader on same-sex marriage, as attention to the party's stand on social issues continues to grow. Harper tells reporters he would allow free votes in Parliament on abortion and capital punishment if an MP brought forth a private member's bill on the topics that managed to make it into the House through the existing lottery system of choosing which bills will be debated. A Conservative rally in Burlington, Ont., attracts a campaign-high 16,000 people.

Day Thirteen: Friday, June 4
Harper says the Conservatives would deliver an extra $2 billion to $3 billion per year over the next five years for general health care. The increase would come through transfer payments to the provinces, as long the premiers agree the money must be spent on health care and can show improvement in certain categories of delivering health care... Canada's leading abortion rights activist wades into the campaign; Dr. Henry Morgentaler warns that a woman's right to choose could be in "serious danger" under a Conservative government... Martin's Quebec lieutenant also had a warning to deliver, saying many of the policies and programs Quebecers support would be in jeopardy if Harper won a majority... In Newfoundland, Martin and Layton face questions from students during a live Newsworld townhall forum called the Great Canadian Job Interview. The two leaders (Harper was invited but had another commitment) agreed that post-secondary education needed more public funding and addressed many other issues of concern to young voters.

Day Fourteen: Saturday, June 5
A new Ipsos-Reid poll shows the Tories almost tied with the Liberals, holding 31 per cent support to the Liberals' 32 per cent. The same poll shows the NDP at 17 per cent and the Bloc Qu�b�cois at 45 per cent in Quebec... The Conservatives choose this spring Saturday afternoon to release their whole platform, which contains many promises that have been previously announced or leaked, including tax cuts and higher spending on the military. New elements include legislation to fix federal election dates every four years, a shift of money budgeted for keeping Kyoto commitments into other environmental areas, a plan to let natives buy land on reserves, and a promise to give municipalities three cents of the gas tax from every litre sold, as long as the money is spent in a manner the Harper government likes... Keeping all the promises will cost $58 billion over five years, which Harper says will be funded by future surpluses that will be higher than the Liberals acknowledge. The Liberals counter that such a plan is not prudent, given the kind of emergencies that tend to crop up for a federal government; their own promises will cost $27 billion over five years... Before flying off to France for D-Day commemorations, Martin agrees to let Newfoundland and Labrador keep 100 per cent of the taxes generated by offshore oil and gas production, up from 85 per cent. The cash-strapped province will gain $100 million in royalties in the first year and $300 million after four years. Nova Scotia immediately says it wants the same deal.

Day Fifteen: Sunday, June 6
Martin, his wife Sheila, and her Second World War veteran father take part in 60th anniversary events for D-Day at Juno Beach in Normandy, where Canadian soldiers landed, fought, died and eventually prevailed on June 6, 1944. Both Layton and Harper lay wreaths during ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, and Duceppe attends a similar event in Quebec City... The tone of the campaign takes a dive again later in the day, when Conservative House Leader John Reynolds downplayed remarks from Ottawa-area MP Cheryl Gallant suggesting that recently passed hate law amendments should be repealed because protection of homosexuals could end up protecting pedophiles. Gallant says much of the party's caucus would agree with her, but Reynolds says there's a difference between an individual expressing views and that individual's party taking action in the House of Commons... The Liberals suffer a blow as well, as two-thirds of the Brampton-Springdale Liberal riding association votes to support the NDP candidate in the district as a protest against Martin appointing Ruby Dhalla as the Liberal candidate. Dhalla, a 30-year-old chiropractor and former Bollywood actress, doesn't live in the riding and two other local Liberals had spent months preparing for the nomination race.

Day Sixteen: Monday, June 7
After flying home from France the previous evening, Martin had planned to take a day off. But faced with mounting evidence that the Conservatives are pulling ahead nationally, in particular an SES poll done for CPAC, he agrees to do a series of television interviews with stations across the country from an Ottawa studio. The former finance minister takes aim at the budget numbers in the platform Harper had released on Saturday, and says rights Canadians enjoy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be jeopardized under a Conservative government... Harper changes his plans too, traveling to Quebec City to rebut a series of Liberal newspaper ads warning that the Conservatives would send soldiers to Iraq, roll back official bilingualism and reopen the abortion debate. Harper also says he might amend just-passed changes to the hate law, calling the definition of sexual orientation too "legally vague" and the act itself insufficiently protective of freedom of religion rights... The same MP who had brought up the hate law on Sunday, Cheryl Gallant, attracts more attention as a month-old article in a Catholic newspaper is circulated, quoting her as comparing abortion to al-Qaeda's recent televised beheading of American Nicholas Berg... At the end of the day, Harper flies to Calgary to don a Flames jersey and join crowds watching televised coverage of the NHL underdogs losing to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final... Reporters start to notice that Layton is sticking to his script and his platform instead of musing on things like homeless deaths and the Clarity Act, and is attacking the Conservatives instead of the Liberals.

Day Seventeen: Tuesday, June 8
Martin is again out of the country, representing Canada and mingling with other world leaders at the G-8 summit near Savannah, Ga. He takes some time out to tell Canadian reporters that the "gulf" between his party and the Conservatives on social issues like abortion and gay rights is becoming clear... Back at home, a group of well-known female Liberals including includes past and present cabinet ministers Judy Erola, Monique Bégin and Carolyn Bennett denounces Harper as dangerous to women's rights. Other Liberal women are less supportive. Senator Anne Cools announces she is switching allegiance to the Conservatives over the sponsorship scandal and the gun registry, among other issues, and MP Carolyn Parrish openly criticizes the Liberal campaign so far as a "comedy of errors," saying Martin should have delayed the election until the fall... Harper reveals more about his strategy to appoint new Supreme Court judges, saying he would propose only those candidates who agree that the courts must defer to Parliament's wishes on controversial topics. The Conservative leader has just one public event on this day, in Victoria, where he also says his party will end mandatory retirement at federal departments and agencies... The NDP candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona, Malcolm Azania, has to defend comments he made on the internet 10 years ago that Jewish people are white supremacists when it comes to their relationship with black people... Duceppe challenges Martin to name the ministers he believes to be politically responsible for the sponsorship program, and hints he intends to pound that challenge home in the leaders' debates next week.

Day Eighteen: Wednesday, June 9
During a conference call with Liberal MPs and candidates, campaign co-chair David Herle tries to rally the troops by warning them that the Liberal campaign for re-election is "in a spiral that we have to arrest." It spirals down further as reporters find out about his message... Before flying home early from the G-8 summit in Georgia, Martin insists the campaign is "in the playoffs" and says he doesn't intend to alter the game plan. The same evening, new Liberal campaign ads attacking Stephen Harper hit the airwaves... Liberal Anne McLellan, facing a tough fight in her Edmonton Centre riding, is endorsed by a dozen Western-based former Progressive Conservative organizers and provincial cabinet ministers who like her record on social issues and justice... Harper says he would scrap adoption of the Kyoto protocol on climate change in favour of passing a clean air bill by 2010 with mandatory limits on emissions. Trying to douse a stubborn campaign fire, he says the possibility of an anti-abortion bill passing under his reign is "virtually non-existent." Adding fuel to that fire, Kitchener-Conestoga Conservative candidate Frank Luellau tells the Globe and Mail that homosexuality "is not a natural kind of relationship"... Layton is dealing with an intolerance issue of his own. He responds to 10-year-old remarks by Malcolm Azania, the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona, that because of their skin colour, European Jews were part of white supremacy, calling the comments "deeply disturbing." Layton orders Azania, who is black, to meet with Jewish groups... When Elections Canada releases the final list of officially nominated candidates in mid-afternoon, the Green Party of Canada does indeed have a full slate of 308 candidates, though many of them don't live in the provinces where they are running. The party is hoping for at least two per cent of the national vote, to secure annual public funding of $1.75 per vote between now and the next election.

Day Nineteen: Thursday, June 10
Paul Martin has a day of rest from campaign appearances, staying in Ottawa to prepare for the looming leaders debates. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien appears on the campaign trail to endorse Liberal candidate Marie-Eve Bilodeau, who faces a tough fight with the BQ in the riding Chrétien held for 40 years... Stephen Harper says for the first time that a Tory majority is a possibility, buoyed by an EKOS poll showing his party with 34 per cent of decided voters compared to 30 per cent for the Liberals, 19 for the NDP and 12 per cent for the BQ (which the same poll showed as the choice of 54 per cent of decided voters in Quebec)... Harper also campaigns in the ridings around Toronto, releasing his platform on immigration in Brampton surrounded by supporters, who later heckle and swear at reporters asking questions about anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality sentiments within the party... The mayors of Canada's 22 largest cities ask voters to support the Liberals, though many of them are seen as NDP sympathizers. Vancouver's Larry Campbell calls the Conservatives "barbarians at the gate" who will cut funding for social programs, pollution prevention and housing, as well as scrap the Liberal infrastructure program... Former Winnipeg Progressive Conservative MP Rick Borotsik, who is not running because he does not want to work with Harper, says the Liberals are right to raise the alarm over a Conservative hidden agenda. Borotsik says he's been in Conservative caucus meetings that convince him Harper's current moderate election platform will change greatly when the party gets around to holding a policy conference... The Canadian Chamber of Commerce attacks new NDP attack ads as anti-American and an insult to the Canada's biggest trading partner. Jack Layton defends the commercials, saying Canadians have the right and the responsibility to object to joining a North American missile defence coalition... Bowing to a British Columbia court ruling, Elections Canada says it won't enforce the Canada Elections Act ban on broadcasting election results from the Atlantic, Quebec and Ontario before polling stations have closed in the West. The decision means that BC voters can tune in or log in to find out how the parties are doing at the same time as everyone else on the night of June 28.

Day Twenty: Friday, June 11
A feisty Paul Martin returns to the campaign trail with two major appearances, at a roundtable at the National Forum on Economic Growth of the Big Cities of Canada in Montreal and at the Women's Executive Network Luncheon in Toronto. At both, he repeats his warning that a vote for the Harper Conservatives is not like a vote for past Progressive Conservatives who much closer to the centre, and the Liberals, on social and taxation issues than to the right. He also says Harper would have to eliminate the equivalent of six federal government departments to pay for his promises... Harper spends the day out of sight in Ottawa, practising for the TV debates, then emerges at an evening rally to accuse Martin of trying to scare voters with the Liberal attack ad image of a dissolving Canadian flag... Layton asks autoworkers in southwestern Ontario for their support, expanding on his plans to encourage their industry to build cleaner cars by providing incentives for those who develop new technology... Duceppe mentions another issue that would cause the Bloc Québécois to pull its support from the Conservatives in a minority government alliance: financial aid for Quebec's aeronautics industry along the lines of what has been done in the past for Ontario's car industry and Western oil companies. The BQ leader has already vowed to bring down a Harper minority government if it tried to back away from adopting the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions... The Jewish organization B'nai Brith releases an open letter begging politicians to cut back on inflammatory rhetoric and "the politics of division." The Conservatives immediately say the letter was aimed at the Liberals and the Liberals claim it was obviously aimed at the Conservatives.

Day Twenty-One: Saturday, June 12
It's a very quiet day on the campaign trail. Martin strolls around Ottawa's Byward Market in the morning, shaking hands and recording a brief video message in a Speaker's Corner-type booth of a TV station aimed at young voters. Then, like Harper and Layton, he retreats to continue prepping for the leaders debates... Duceppe has the heaviest schedule and makes the only newsworthy statement of the day, telling reporters at an event in Gatineau, Que., that his party would vote to bring down a Conservative minority government if it tried to meddle with abortion rights.

Day Twenty-Two: Sunday, June 13
Eighty prominent women from all parties sign a statement condemning Harper over his past support for the war in Iraq, his refusal to support the Kyoto accord on climate change and his MPs opposition to abortion and gay rights. "We must not sleepwalk into electing a Canadian version of George W. Bush," the statement warns... In the Liberal camp, former prime minister John Turner tells a TV interviewer that he empathizes with Martin's current predicament of having to live with ethical questions left over from an outgoing Liberal prime minister. In the 1984 election, Turner's Liberals captured only 40 seats, partly because of unpopular patronage appointments Turner inherited from Pierre Trudeau... The Conservative riding association in Ottawa Centre files a complaint with Elections Canada, saying a cheery piece of video called �Ed�s Back� breaches campaign financing rules. The one-minute hiphop-themed piece was produced by This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but never aired on the popular show. The NDP asked for permission to post the election ad parody featuring former party leader and Ottawa Centre candidate Ed Broadbent on its website, and tens of thousands of people have viewed it in the past week. The TV show�s production company did not charge for the right to post the video, and the Conservatives say that makes it an indirect campaign contribution with a value in excess of the $1,000 limit enforced by Elections Canada... A Green Party candidate cuts off his ponytail on a televised episode of CBC's Cross Country Checkup, saying he wants people to look beyond the stereotypes of his party. Meanwhile, leader Jim Harris releases his shadow cabinet list to bolster his argument that the Greens are ready to be a force in Canadian politics.

Day Twenty-Three: Monday, June 14
The French-language leaders debate gives the country a look at four well-groomed, determined men who survive two hours of political sparring with few bruises. Most of the rhetorical barbs are aimed at Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, reflecting the perception that they are in almost a dead heat to form the government. No one stumbles badly, everyone's French holds up well, and as expected, Gilles Duceppe turns every national question into one about Quebec. But more than French Canada is watching. A total of 300,000 Canadians watch the debate's English translation on Newsworld as well... Earlier in the day, Human Resources Minister Joe Volpe announces the federal government will contribute more than $500 million over five years to fund research, development and innovation at Ontario auto manufacturing plants such as Ford Motor Co. in Oakville, as well as another $500 million on other manufacturing industries... Speaking at the Banff TV Festival, Heritage Minister Hélène Scherrer says a Conservative government "would essentially signal the end to the Canadian broadcasting system" by opening the airwaves to American cable companies, ending tax credits for those who choose to tell Canadian stories on TV or film, dismantling the CRTC and selling off parts of the CBC. A Conservative spokesman denies her charges... The sponsorship scandal rears its head again, as some people who worked for Quebec advertising firm Lafleur Communications say their boss asked them to donate to a Liberal candidate in the 1997 federal election.

Day Twenty-Four: Tuesday, June 15
The long-awaited televised leaders debate in English sums up in two hours what the leaders have been saying on the campaign trail for the last three and a half weeks, but this time they're saying it to each other, face to face. Audience figures will later show 1.237 million adults are watching on CBC, 802,000 on CTV and 237,000 on Global... Paul Martin desperately needs a good performance to reverse a multi-point slip in the polls since the start of the race. He goes on the offensive against Stephen Harper over his flipflop on sending Canadian troops to Iraq, his party's divided stance on abortion and minority rights, and the cost-cutting that he says would inevitably follow the tax cuts Harper is promising, saying there's a "$50-billion black hole" in the Conservative figures... Harper gets in a good jab at Martin after the Liberal leader and former finance minister claims to know the Conservatives' numbers won't add up, asking him: "How can you talk about numbers given your record of disappearing billions?" He and the other leaders hammer away at Martin over the sponsorship scandal repeatedly over the two hours of the debate, with other salvoes involving the Liberals failing to keep past Red Book promises to fix health care and bring in a national daycare program... Jack Layton takes issue with Martin's opening statement that this election is really a choice between the Liberals and the Conservatives, saying it shows disrespect for the right of Canadians to support other parties. He also says Martin and Harper would both agree to the weaponization of space under the U.S.-backed anti-missile defence shield... Gilles Duceppe merely needs to solidify his support in Quebec by keeping the heat on Martin, and does so throughout the evening with repeated references to the sponsorship program, though he takes some time to corner Harper on bilingualism policies and social issues and demand that all health care dollars be under unfettered provincial control... Leading into the debate, former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay doesn't do Harper any favours by telling the Ottawa Citizen that he would not support any move by the new Conservatives to use the Canadian constitution's notwithstanding clause, calling it the "legislative equivalent of a nuclear bomb."

Day Twenty-Five: Wednesday, June 16
The debates over, Martin and Layton launch a schedule of Ontario appearances that indicate both men will pull out all the stops to win the seat-heavy region in the last two weeks of the campaign... Martin plays a card many expected him to use in the debate: That as the finance minister who beat the deficit in the 1990s and set the country on the path to fiscal health, he will tackle medical waiting lists with the same determination... A confident Harper is openly saying things like "When I am prime minister" and asking Canadians to make sure he has a majority government rather than just a minority one. Visiting Martin's hometown of Windsor, he also hints that he will honour a recent Liberal pledge to provide half a billion dollars to help the Ontario auto industry, despite his repeated promise to end corporate subsidies... Layton crosses the country from Ottawa, touching down in Winnipeg for a noon rally and ending the day in the Vancouver area. He seems to back away from a previous insistence that the NDP can form a minority government by asking voters to back his party so that it can play a "central role" in the next Parliament, perhaps as a partner with a larger party... Duceppe is basking in approval over his performance in the French and English debates, and holds a major youth rally in Montreal to encourage supporters of that age to get out the vote among their friends... Away from the leaders' trails, Paul Gross, Sonja Smits, Sarah Polley, Rick Mercer and other Canadian film and television stars hold a news conference in Toronto to express concern that cultural issues are being ignored in the election campaign, and could actively be damaged under a Conservative government.

Day Twenty-Six: Thursday, June 17
Health care gets the big headlines today. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says he plans to introduces changes to his province's health-care system just two days after the June 28 election to allow more private health care options. Paul Martin seizes upon the statement as proof that medicare is in danger and that Stephen Harper would be "a silent partner in Ottawa" for Klein to break the spirit of the Canada Health Act. Harper calls Martin's accusations "ridiculous" and says the Liberal leader's outrage is strange given that Klein had already briefed Martin on what he was planning to do. Klein later says he did not give Martin the details... The Liberals and NDP both launch new ads. The Liberal ones says Harper's tax-cutting plans would be just as damaging as those of Brian Mulroney federally, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves in the province of Ontario and Grant Devine in Saskatchewan, asking voters to "think twice, vote once." The NDP ads ask francophone voters in Quebec to look at the positive aspects of the party's platform and remember that Jack Layton was born in Quebec.

Day Twenty-Seven: Friday, June 18
The first day of advance voting is a volatile day indeed. The Conservatives issue a news release with a headline suggesting Martin "supports" child pornography, just 24 hours after a Toronto murderer admits he watched child porn in the hours before he kidnapped, raped and killed a 10-year-old girl in 2003. The headline is later softened, but Martin reacts angrily, saying Harper repeatedly condemned negative attacks before committing one of the worst in this campaign. "This is personal," he says. "I'm a father; I'm a husband. He crossed the line and he should apologize." Harper acknowledges the headline was too strong but doesn't apologize, saying Martin voted against Alliance motions on the topic. The Conservatives levy the same charge against the NDP... Campaigning in Regina, Jack Layton first seems to suggest he could work with a Conservative minority government, then later vehemently denies he would "prop up Conservatives," calling media coverage of the earlier statements "bullshit"... The Bloc Québécois sets yet another condition on its own relationship with a Conservative minority government, with leader Gilles Duceppe saying it would not let the controversial gun registry be abolished... Federal prisoners vote for the first time in Canadian history, thanks to a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that the Conservatives have denounced, saying murderers and other career criminals don't deserve the franchise. Harper has in the past mused about using the notwithstanding clause to end the practice... On a much lighter note, a would-be candidate for the Rhinoceros Party seeks an injunction to stop the election in Yukon because he could not afford to hire an accountant to be his official campaign auditor as the Elections Act requires. "We are calling upon the powers of the sun to destroy the forces of darkness and evil who are trying to impede democracy," Big Ben Mahony's campaign manager tells reporters.

Day Twenty-Eight: Saturday, June 19
Harper tells CBC Radio's The House that a Conservative government will not have to make major cuts to balance the books, as his foes have suggested. "All we're doing is suggesting we're going to increase spending less rapidly [than the Liberals]," he said. Aside from specific already-publicized cuts to business subsidies and the gun registry and the decision to "reallocate" environmental spending, "we're going to maintain the current mix of programs," Harper says... Martin continues to demand an apology from Harper for politicizing the Holly Jones murder issue, but Harper continues to insist during a New Brunswick campaign stop that "Paul Martin's record on child pornography is shameful and just another reason why his government must be defeated on June 28"... Martin is in Quebec to warn voters that the Bloc Québécois will pursue a separation agenda if MPs are returned to Ottawa in larger numbers. "The day after an election, the Bloc MPs will have only one thing in mind: to collaborate with their friends in the PQ to divide Canada," Martin says... Campaigning in northern Ontario, Layton concentrates on local issues like public transit and layoffs in an effort to win voters away from the Liberals and Conservatives.

Day Twenty-Nine: Sunday, June 20
All of a sudden, Air Canada is the top story on the campaign trail. A June 9 memo from a top Conservative official outlines a plan to repeal an act that requires the airline to have its headquarters in Montreal and observe stricter bilingualism rules than other Canadian airlines. Harper confirms the plan, but insists Air Canada would still be subject to the Official Languages Act and provide bilingual service where there was a measurable need for it. He also says other airlines would be brought under the Official Languages Act to give Air Canada a level playing field... Campaigning in Newfoundland, Martin calls the plan "terrible, unacceptable," and says it's one more trickle of information about Harper's "hidden agenda." BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe calls the plan an insult to Quebecers.

Day Thirty: Monday, June 21
Stephen Harper takes a break from the public eye for a day, leaving the field open to his rivals. However, the Conservatives roll out a new TV that features one (Liberal?) arm taking cookies out of a cookie jar, then another (Conservative?) arm reaching over to pull the first one out and start replacing the cookies... Paul Martin is running hard through Ontario's cottage country, where he promises to hold the next first ministers conference on health care in full view of the media and the public... Jack Layton tells the Toronto Board of Trade he's prepared to back off on his earlier promise to impose a tax on inheritances of more than $1 million in order to push through other NDP priorities while working with a Liberal-led minority government. Layton later says he would ask Martin to back off on his plan to keep paying down the national debt, and instead using surplus money to reinvest in social programs. Martin dances along a bit too, suggesting he might be open to discussing the NDP's pitch for a form of proportional representation... Alberta Premier Ralph Klein wades into the election debate again, denying Martin's accusation that his plan to radically reform health care in his province on June 30 was cooked up with Harper's knowledge and support. "First of all, there's no hidden agenda and there's no pact with the devil," Klein tells reporters. "I haven't discussed this with Mr. Harper at all, whereas I have discussed this matter with Mr. Martin." He later says he is referring to the timing of his reform package, not its content, and hints that Martin could stave off reforms he doesn't like by giving Alberta substantially more money for health care... Remember Svend Robinson? Justice officials in Vancouver do. They finally charge the longtime NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas with theft over $5,000, in connection with his admission in April that he had pocketed an expensive ring during a jewellery sale. At the time, Robinson blamed severe emotional strain and said he wouldn't be running to retain his seat.

Day Thirty-One: Tuesday, June 22
Stephen Harper is back in action after a day off. Contrary to expectations that he would spend the last week of the campaign speaking of hope and positive change, he is even more aggressive in attacking the Liberals, saying Paul Martin could have chosen to stop the unpopular new Ontario health care premium imposed by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. Later in the day, he appears at the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto to face questions from the public for 90 minutes in an event moderated by TV anchor Peter Mansbridge. Then the Conservative leader heads over to the SkyDome to throw out the first pitch as the Toronto Blue Jays host Tampa Bay... On a visit to British Columbia, Martin warns that people who vote for the NDP there "may well help Stephen Harper become prime minister." The Liberal leader is invigorated by a new Ipsos-Reid poll that suggests the tide has turned in the campaign, with his party regaining a substantial lead in Ontario and a six-point lead over the Conservatives nationally. It's the first good polling news in a long time for Martin, and analysts suggest the turning point came when Harper started talking openly about forming a majority government after the televised debates a week earlier... After Newfoundland's Tory premier, Danny Williams, says Alberta Premier Ralph Klein should reveal what's in his health-care reform package before the June 28 election instead of two days after it, Alberta Health Minister Gary Mar announces that the provincial government will outline parts of the plan the next day, June 23. Mar also says Alberta is not planning to violate the Canada Health Act, as Paul Martin has insisted and as Klein himself has hinted in the past... Elections Canada reports that voting in the weekend's advance polls was much higher than in the 2000 election period, with 60 per cent more voters turning up to mark an early ballot. A total of 1.244 million Canadians did so this year, perhaps in part because many will be away on vacation on June 28.

Day Thirty-Two: Wednesday, June 23
Alberta's health-care reforms turn out to be not so radical after all. Health Minister Gary Mar talks of giving more money for capital and operations to local health authorities, but does say more wide-reaching changes will be debated by Albertans in a series of public consultations this fall. Paul Martin immediately calls the announcement a "political dodge" and says Premier Ralph Klein is hiding his intentions to break the Canada Health Act sometime after the election, especially if an aquiescent Stephen Harper is in power in Ottawa. Harper replies that Martin is looking "foolish" over his "baseless" and "ridiculous" accusations that Klein and Harper are in cahoots to bring in two-tier health care... The country's two national newspapers come out with editorial endorsements, with the National Post recommending voters choose Harper's Conservatives and the Globe and Mail backing Martin's Liberals... Also in the Globe and Mail, Parti Québécois Leader Bernard Landry says that with a big win by the BQ in Quebec on June 28, "there will be a referendum in five years" on the province separating from Canada. Trying to attract wavering federalist voters away from the Liberals, BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe has been saying this election is not about sovereignty, and he repeats that forcefully throughout the day... Speaking early in the day in Charlottetown, the NDP's Jack Layton says that if Canada has a minority government after June 28, he will be calling for a referendum on proportional representation within 12 months... Speaking of minority governments, Martin says "common sense" dictates that the party that earns the most seats should form the government, even though as the reigning prime minister, he could technically try to govern with fewer seats than the Conservatives. Earlier, media reports had speculated that Martin might seek a mandate from the Governor General to govern if he had slightly fewer seats but a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Conservatives, as well as an indication that the NDP could work with the Liberals on enough key issues to keep the government alive... The Regina Leader-Post reports Martin as saying he is open to removing criminal penalties for failing to register guns under his party's firearms law. "Yes, I think that's something we want to look at," Martin told the paper in a telephone interview. "But I'm very open."

Day Thirty-Three: Thursday, June 24
Martin and Layton both head to Quebec to join in St.-Jean Baptiste Day festivities and beg voters not to place their support with the BQ on Monday. A confident Gilles Duceppe celebrates with his fellow Quebecers on the province's Fête nationale, with some seat projections suggesting he could win as many as 60 of Quebec's 75 seats... Harper is in Ontario, shoring up support in the crucial province where Conservatives are planning a massive effort to get out the vote on Monday. Health care is his campaign theme of the day. "There is nobody in this country who can be trusted less with your health care than Paul Martin," he says as he reminds supporters in Sarnia that Martin's fight against the deficit sapped provincial transfer payments starting almost 10 years ago... Martin responds with some history. He produces comments that Harper made in 1995, complaining that Martin's budget cuts at the time were inadequate, as well as his main rival's past contentions that health care should be left to the provinces entirely... Harper also says people shouldn't vote for the Liberals because they don't know which party Martin will ally himself with in the event of a minority government: the NDP or the BQ... Reporters get a look at an open letter to Canadians from Ralph Nader, the independent candidate for the U.S. presidential race, who many say pushed George W. Bush into the White House in 2000 by attracting left-leaning voters away from Democrat Al Gore. Nader says voters in Canada should not vote for the Conservatives because the business-friendly right-wing party has "plans for crippling the commonwealth and security of the Canadian standard of living, known worldwide as just about the finest among sizable nations."

Day Thirty-Four: Friday, June 25
Things heat up early in the day. The Liberals release a transcript and footage of an interview a documentary maker recorded with Conservative MP Randy White on May 19, just before the election call. He blames Canada's current same-sex marriage situation on "obscure judges" who want to make a name for themselves, says "to heck with the courts" and predicts the Conservatives will not be shy to use the Charter's notwithstanding clause to make sure the views of socially conservative politicians overrule court rulings on certain types of rights. Stephen Harper says White's views are personal opinions and don't reflect party policy... Some prominent members of the Liberal riding association in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek throw their support behind the NDP candidate in the riding, undercutting Transport Minister Tony Valeri's campaign. The defecting Liberals had supported former MP Sheila Copps in her unsuccessful battle for the riding's Liberal nomination back in March. At a news conference, one of them roundly condemns Paul Martin over his personal ethics and his treatment of Copps... About 100 yelling protesters try to waylay Harper at a Winnipeg rally, but he evades them. They say they're average grassroots people concerned about minority rights under a Conservative government; many turn out to be Liberal party members, though... Emotional relatives of gun violence victims hold a news conference in Toronto to speak in favour of the firearms registry, which Harper has said he'll scrap. "We don't want to punish gun owners but want to protect women and children from being threatened and killed with guns," Karen Vanscoy, whose teenaged daughter was killed by a young offender, tells the Canadian Press... Jack Layton hits the road on what his advisers call "Super Friday," planning to reach nine cities in Ontario in the space of 18 hours to firm up NDP support in key ridings... In Quebec, the BQ's Gilles Duceppe says he won't rush to topple a minority government if that's what Monday's election brings because his sovereignist MPs are responsible parliamentarians. He says anglophone Canadians are learning to trust BQ members: "We're human beings just like they are. We're not eating babies for breakfast."

Day Thirty-Five: Saturday, June 26
One of the biggest political polls ever taken in Canada is published in the Toronto Star, with 5,524 respondents and a margin of error of just 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The EKOS survey suggests the Liberals have pulled ahead enough to win 117 seats, with the Conservatives picking up 108 seats, the Bloc 55 seats and the NDP 27 seats. If this scenario holds up, both the Liberals and the Conservatives would need support from the Bloc to function as the government... Paul Martin starts the day in Brampton, Ont., before heading to New Brunswick for events marking the 400th anniversary of the French presence in North America. Late in the day, he decides to add a last-minute trip to British Columbia on Sunday, telling reporters: "I could not live with myself if I didn't go flat out until the very last minute to earn every vote we can get."... Stephen Harper calls Martin's sudden travel plans a sign of "panic." He himself spends much of the day campaigning in B.C. with local candidates (with the notable exception of Randy White, who was the object of a controversy over the notwithstanding clause the previous day). Extra police are brought in to control persistent hecklers, many of whom carry Liberal and NDP placards. Then Harper heads home to Alberta to finish out the campaign... Jack Layton accuses Martin of "fear-mongering" by warning voters that a vote for the NDP is the same as a vote for Harper's Conservatives. Many analysts think swing voters could rob the NDP of what could be its best showing in decades. Layton also asks Green Party supporters in B.C. to vote for the NDP instead... Gilles Duceppe tells ethnic voters in the Montreal area that the Liberals have a habit of taking their support for granted and never actually trying to solve their problems. He says the BQ would look after all Quebecers, even those not born in the province who speak languages other than French and English.

Day Thirty-Six: Sunday, June 27
Harper spends the last day of campaigning on friendly territory in Alberta, with two formal events in Red Deer and Edmonton. A full police escort leads him as his six-bus convoy travels across the province making whistle stops in front of enthusiastic crowds. The supporters cheer enthusiastically when he says a Liberal minority government that depends on support from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois for survival would amount to "corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration."... Martin's day is frenetically busy. He dips his toes in the Atlantic Ocean at Chester, N.S., at the break of day before flying to the Ottawa area, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Then he heads back to Montreal, where he's expected to get in at around 7 a.m. Monday. "Why are we working so hard? We're doing it because we're fighting for the Canada we want," he tells reporters... Layton is also racking up the miles, heading from Saskatoon through Thunder Bay back home to Toronto... In Quebec, Duceppe has for the most part wrapped up his campaign, secure in the knowledge that the BQ is poised to record its best showing ever, thanks to the sponsorship scandal gutting Liberal support in the province.

Day Thirty-Seven: Monday, June 28
The eligible voters of Canada get their say in what happens next. They defy the pundits' predictions to give Paul Martin enough MPs to form a fairly strong minority government. The Liberals win 135 seats, to 99 for the Conservatives, 54 for the Bloc Québécois and 19 for the NDP. Non-affiliated candidate Chuck Cadman, who lost the Conservative nomination in his B.C. riding of Surrey North, is also elected... The results mean Martin will have to seek the help of either the Bloc or the NDP plus one more MP in order to pass legislation. The relieved-looking Prime Minister tells voters that he has gotten the message that they are upset at the Liberals' handling of the sponsorship program. He promises to do better for as long as his minority government lasts... Conservative Leader Stephen Harper admits he's disappointed with the result, including a drop of eight percentage points from the popular vote of the combined conservative vote in 2000, but promises to continue holding the Liberals to account in the months and years ahead... Despite his wife Olivia Chow's loss in a nearby riding, NDP Leader Jack Layton basks in his personal victory in Toronto-Danforth, and the party's achievement in almost doubling its share of the popular vote, to 15.7 per cent. He tells the country he's looking forward to pushing some NDP priorities onto the Liberals' governing agenda in the minority government... The BQ's Gilles Duceppe does not manage to surpass the party's record showing of 54 seats in the 1993 election, but nevertheless calls the night a "beautiful victory" and also promises to come calling on Martin with a wish list.


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