NDP Leader Jack Layton headed west to drum up support in B.C. Friday, with his party facing increasing scrutiny from his chief rivals — and getting some unexpected support.
Layton will attend a campaign event in Kamloops followed by a rally in Courtenay, on Vancouver Island, on Friday evening.
The NDP leader's swing through British Columbia comes after a crowd of more than 1,000 Layton supporters rallied in Saskatoon on Thursday night.
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Layton used his Saskatoon speech to try to cement the party's surge in popular support and turn it into votes.
"We're being told the same thing in this election, that we have no choice but to vote for the old-line parties," Layton said.
"But we've seen what they have done, and we have decided that we're going to make a change, we're going to pick something new and we're going to pick some new energy with some values that we share together, and that's the New Democratic Party of Canada."
The NDP received an unexpected boost on Friday morning as two Bloc Québécois members wrote an open letter to Quebec voters urging them to vote for Layton.
Maxime Bellerose, the party former president in the riding of Hochelaga, and Benoît Demuy, another BQ member, said they still believe in the sovereignty movement, but they are switching their votes in order to elect a left-wing government.
"For the first time in our political lives social democracy is at the doorstep of Parliament! It would be a pity for Quebecers to not take advantage of this opportunity to send to Ottawa MPs who carry high and strong the values of all Quebecers of mutual assistance and justice," the letter said in French.
The open letter said the two Quebecers are still waiting for a winning referendum, but in the meantime, "voting NDP is the solution to breaking the cycle of conservative minority governments."
Liberals step up NDP attacks
The Liberals continued their attack on the NDP on Friday, while Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff faced more questions from reporters over polls suggesting the New Democrats have surged to second place nationally and are closing on the Conservatives.
"What's weird here is that everybody's calling the hockey game in the middle of the third period. That's weird," Ignatieff told reporters.
"When I watch hockey games, I wait until the final whistle. I wait until the final siren and the final siren hasn't sounded."
The Liberal leader said he's going to spend the remaining days of the election campaign heading into different ridings, denying that he's only going to make appearances in ridings the party held when the election was called.
"We're going to territory we need to get back. We've gone to ridings we don't hold," Ignatieff said.
"We've run an adventurous campaign. ... We're the party doing it differently and I feel great about the final weekend. You're going to like my red running shoes. We're going to have a hell of a good time."
Harper targets Quebec City ridings
Meanwhile, Harper continued the push Friday morning to hold onto his Quebec seats.
At a rally in Montreal, Harper was asked how he'd govern differently if he were handed a third minority government.
The Conservative leader said his party is "always prepared to listen to good ideas," but he would not carry out policies that "would damage the economy." He criticized his main rivals for policies that would raise spending and taxes.
"The NDP are the most extreme when it comes to spending and taxes," he told the crowd.
About 30 activists carrying signs calling for women's rights, native rights and social housing, attempted to push their way into the building before Harper's speech, CBC's Louise Elliott reported. They were blocked from entering by plain clothes RCMP members, and some were physically shoved away by the officers.
After the event, the protesters stood outside the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre and were joined by about 10 Harper supporters wearing blue Conservative T-shirts. Several Montreal Police officers in bullet-proof vests stood nearby observing the groups.
Harper travelled to Ontario Friday afternoon, with his first stop in Kingston. He was scheduled to head to Ajax next and then attend a rally in Brampton in the evening.
In Kingston, Harper focused on the NDP, saying this election will determine if Canada moves forward or slides back. He said another minority government will lead to another election.
He then asked the crowd to picture what an NDP government would actually look like, and said Layton and the Liberals will still need the support of the Bloc to take over government. The risk in this election, he said, is that a minority Parliament with the NDP at the helm would lead to out-of-control spending and higher taxes.
"The NDP or Liberals will need the support of the Bloc Québécois to take over the government. Think how unstable such a government would be. Look at the divisive issues. Mr. Layton is now talking about opening up constitutional issues, language issues," said Harper.
Someone in the crowd yelled that things would be just like they were when an NDP government was in power in Ontario.
"Exactly like the man said. Like you had in Ontario. Spending enormously, raising taxes, raising prices, killing jobs, killing the recovery," said Harper.
If voters make the right choice, a "generation of prosperity awaits this country," he said.
The Conservative leader was to get the endorsement of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Friday evening.
Harper was also asked in Quebec why his campaign was touring around the Greater Toronto Area but was not spending any time actually inside the city.
He responded by saying the Greater Toronto Area is very large, and the party pulls in voters from all ridings during their rallies in the region.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe will give a speech in Gatineau, Que., followed by a meeting with supporters in Shefford and a visit to local businesses in Magog. He wraps the day by meeting with supporters in Brome-Missisquoi.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May attends an all-candidates meeting in Victoria, followed by a royal wedding breakfast and news conference in Sidney, B.C.