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Analysis & Commentary

As the campaign twists and turns

Paul Martin's Liberal minority government was brought down on Nov. 28, 2005, after Jack Layton's New Democrats joined with Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Qu�b�cois on a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons. That kicked off a 56-day campaign, interrupted by short breaks over the Christmas and New Year's weekends, leading up to a Jan. 23 voting day.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says he'll cut the GST (CP Photo)  

1. Harper promises to cut the GST to five per cent
Three days out of the gate, Harper makes the first major promise of the campaign. Cutting the goods and services tax to six from seven per cent, and then to five per cent, proves to be a popular move with voters surveyed in polls, though many economists say Liberal-style income-tax cuts are a better way to keep money in the pockets of Canadians.
FROM DEC. 1, 2005: Economists dump on Harper's GST-lowering plan

2. Liberals boosted by CAW "strategic voting" motion
After Buzz Hargrove all but kisses Martin at a Canadian Auto Workers event, the group's council votes the next day to encourage its members to vote Liberal in ridings where the NDP have little chance of winning, in order to prevent the Conservatives from squeaking through the middle. Layton, the leader of the party the CAW traditionally supports, is not happy.
FROM DEC. 2, 2005: Vote Liberal where NDP can't win: CAW boss

3. Martin labels this a "referendum-election"
Martin sets off a new round of sovereignty claims and counterclaims, betting that preserving Liberal seats in Quebec will depend on frightened federalists fleeing back into the Liberal tent. He warns that the Bloc Qu�b�cois and Parti Qu�b�cois will interpret a strong BQ showing on Jan. 23 as permission to proceed with another sovereignty push.
FROM DEC. 4, 2005: Duceppe dismisses Martin's warning of 'referendum election'

4. Harper promises $25 a week for day care
The Conservatives make the first in a series of child-related announcements by main party leaders, turning this into the child-care election for a time. Harper promises to give each Canadian family $1,200 a year per child under six to be used for whatever kind of day care they choose. Martin follows with a boost in money for his own federal-provincial national system, hiking it to $11 billion over 10 years instead of $5 billion over five years.
FROM DEC. 5, 2005: Tories promise new child-care allowance

5. Martin announces ban on handguns
The Liberals are the first to play the violence card in the campaign, reacting to heated news coverage of murders in Toronto. Martin promises to crack down on the ownership of handguns, restricting them to target shooters. The move wins him praise from Toronto Mayor David Miller.
FROM DEC. 8, 2005: Liberals vow to ban handguns

6. Martin aide drops "beer and popcorn" bomb
Liberal director of communications Scott Reid shoots his campaign in the foot by implying on CBC television that average parents wouldn't do what's best for their children. Instead, he says, they would spend the $25 a week promised in Harper's child-care plan on "beer and popcorn." Fellow strategist John Duffy echoes his attack and even expands on it, lending credence to pundits' belief that this was a planned tactic that ended up backfiring wildly. Reid is forced to apologize and the other parties have a graphic new phrase to use to illustrate Liberal arrogance.
FROM DEC. 11, 2005: Liberal apologizes for saying Harper day-care bucks may buy beer, popcorn

Bill Clinton and Paul Martin arrive for a news conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. (CP photo)  

7. U.S. ambassador advises Martin to back off
David Wilkins reminds the Liberal leader that the United States is not on the ballot for Jan. 23. The new U.S. ambassador to Canada says heated anti-American rhetoric could damage relations between the countries. The week before, Martin had told the United Nations Climate Change conference in Montreal that the Americans should develop a global conscience on environmental issues. He also had his photo taken with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a move that might annoy the Republican administration of George W. Bush. Responding to Wilkins' warning, Martin says he intends to keep saying what he believes.
FROM DEC. 13, 2005: Martin rejects U.S. ambassador's rebuke

8. First set of leaders' debates
Harper pledges he will never use the notwithstanding clause on the same-sex marriage issue; Martin vows he won't let sovereigntists like Duceppe take Quebec out of Canada by using some kind of "trick."
FROM DEC. 16, 2005: Round 2 of debates sparks bigger fireworks

9. Harper unveils Quebec-pleasing policies
The Conservative leader draws praise from Liberal Premier Jean Charest for promising to correct the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces and recognize Quebec's autonomy and constitutional areas of responsibility, and would even let Quebec participate in international institutions such as UNESCO.
FROM DEC. 19, 2005: Harper promises Quebec greater role in international affairs

10. Harper raises the military stakes
After earlier pledging $1.8 billion in new defence spending by 2010, Harper adds another $5.3-billion over five years to defend northern waters against the Americans, Russians and Danes. It includes funding for three new armed heavy icebreaking ships starting within five years and a $2-billion deepwater port in Iqaluit within eight or nine years. He will go on to promise more military presence in Canada's big cities as well as boosted resources at Comox, B.C., and Bagotville, Que.
FROM DEC. 22, 2005: Tories plan to bolster Arctic defence

11. Outbreak of blog stupidity
Liberal Mike Klander is the first of a handful of political operatives to step down or apologize after posting silly things on internet blogs. He compares NDP candidate Olivia Chow to a chow chow dog. Other websites snicker at Jack Layton having a "boiled dog's head smile" and warn that half the Conservatives in Alberta will start working toward separation if the Liberals win again.
FROM DEC. 26, 2005: Liberal exec quits over his blog remarks about NDPers

12. Boxing Day tragedy leads to more promises
Jane Creba, 15, is shot dead while doing some Boxing Day shopping on Toronto's Yonge Street as two gangs fire off rounds of bullets at each other. Six other people are injured. The incident will spark another round of promises from all the campaigns aimed at tackling gun violence and toughening sentences for crimes committed with firearms.
FROM DEC. 27, 2005: Party leaders speak out on Toronto shootings

13. RCMP income-trust investigation poleaxes Liberals
To the glee of the Liberals' foes, the RCMP confirms it is beginning a criminal investigation into "a possible breach of security or illegal transfer of information in advance of the federal government's announcement of changes to the taxation of Canadian corporate dividends and income trusts of Nov. 23, 2005." This is the first time a criminal investigation has been launched in the middle of a Canadian election campaign. Finance Minister Ralph Goodale refuses to resign.
FROM DEC. 29, 2005: PM backs Goodale despite RCMP probe

14. New tack for Martin
The Liberal leader tries out some new lines that he will use repeatedly in the last few weeks of the campaign: that a Stephen Harper government would resemble Mike Harris's now-reviled Ontario government from 1995 to 2002 and that Harper believes in a "fend-for-yourself" society.
FROM JAN. 3, 2006: Liberals, not Tories, would build on Canada's achievements, says Martin

15. "Who's on which team" game begins as polls change
As an EKOS poll published in the Toronto Star shows the Conservatives with their first statistically significant lead of the campaign, Harper starts musing about whether the NDP would support a minority Conservative government. Layton replies that he doesn't see much common ground with Harper's party, but doesn't rule out co-operating on some issues.
FROM JAN. 5, 2006: Harper says he could find common ground with NDP

16. Option Canada rears its 10-year-old head
News breaks that the RCMP is investigating how Option Canada, a pro-federalist group created to lobby Quebecers to vote against sovereignty in the 1995 referendum, used $300,000 of the $4.8 million in federal grants it received. The probe came at the request of Heritage Canada, shortly before the planned Jan. 9 publication of a new book called The Secrets of Option Canada. Foes of Martin jump on the matter immediately, with Duceppe being particularly outraged that federalists got so much money from Ottawa, possibly breaking Quebec's election spending law. Claude Dauphin, who was the honorary chairman of Option Canada, went on to become Martin's top adviser in Quebec from 1997 to 2001. Denying any wrongdoing, Dauphin says he's considering legal action to clear his name.
FROM JAN. 6, 2006: Martin defensive over Option Canada grants

NDP Leader Jack Layton, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Paul Martin listen to BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe during the French language leaders' debate, Jan. 10, 2006, in Montreal. (CP Photo/Paul Chiasson)  

17. Second set of leaders' debates
Millions of Canadians who had been tuning out over the holiday season get a chance to tune back in and catch up with the campaign. The four main party leaders are in fine form for the first debate, in English, during which Martin suddenly announces a bit of new policy. He would seek a constitutional amendment to ban the federal government from invoking the notwithstanding clause. Energy sags during the French debate, the leaders' fourth televised joust of the campaign. It's marked chiefly by Harper becoming a target of Duceppe, thanks to polls showing the Conservatives' fortunes are rising in Quebec.
FROM JAN. 10, 2006: Harper fends off attacks from Duceppe, Martin in final debate

18. Attack of the attack ads
With a series of polls showing them falling behind as the campaign enters its final two weeks, Liberal strategists decide to unleash the advertising hounds. They unveil a series of 12 ads aimed at Stephen Harper, past, present and future. One of them that seems to suggest Harper is planning some kind of military action and will station "soldiers with guns � in our cities � in Canada." is quickly deleted from the party's website. Not to be accused of staying out of the media war, the Conservatives and NDP also launch a new round of attack ads.
FROM JAN. 10, 2006: Liberals launch series of attack ads against Harper

19. Liberals surprised by CAW "strategic voting" move With only five days left to go, CAW head Buzz Hargrove says Stephen Harper's desire to hand more power to the provinces is a "separatist view" of the country. Conversely, Hargrove says a strong Bloc caucus in opposition would be better for the country than a Conservative government. Liberal Leader Paul Martin, who earlier was buoyed by the support of the CAW leader, says he doesn't agree with the assessment of Harper as a "separatist."
FROM JAN. 18, 2005: Bloc opposition better than Tory government: Hargrove

20. Conservative say their power would be limited With a possible Conservative victory in sight, leader Stephen Harper says a Tory government would be hamstrung by a Liberal-dominated Senate, civil service, and judiciary. The Liberals pounce, saying the comments indicate Harper wants to reopen the debates on same-sex marriage and abortion.
FROM JAN. 18, 2005: Tories would accept checks and balances: Harper


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