Parizeau calls on PQ to rally behind Bloc
Leaders pitch to their bases as campaign enters final week
Former Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau is calling on sovereignists to rally behind the Bloc Québécois, which has been faltering in recent public opinion polls.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe appeared with Parizeau on Monday at a rally in Montreal. The former PQ leader used the speech to urge members of the Parti Québécois to "use whatever means available" to help the Bloc on May 2.
"I'm making an appeal to members of the Parti Québécois," he said. "I'm appealing to you to mobilize your people in the last week of the campaign to support the Bloc Québécois in this election campaign."
Parizeau listed several of the other parties' top election priorities, such as hiring more doctors and nurses and improving child care, saying those plans are good ideas, but the province of Quebec should be responsible for delivering on those priorities.
The former PQ leader said the province needs a strong Bloc Québécois representation in Ottawa.
"I was going to say right now, we need the Bloc more than ever perhaps. There are huge issues where we have to be very vigilant: compensation for the harmonization of the sales tax … It would never have been promised if the Bloc had not raised it and been talking about it over and over again," Parizeau said.
Parizeau chided the other parties for devoting so much time in the campaign to the talk of coalitions.
"The Bloc came through this bizarre episode in the same position it has always taken whatever the government in power in Ottawa," he said. "If a measure makes sense for Quebec or is in Quebec's interests, then we vote in favour of it."
After Parizeau's speech, Duceppe picked up on the former Quebec premier's call for unity in the sovereigntist movement.
"A strong Bloc Québécois in Ottawa, the Parti Québécois in power in Quebec, everything becomes possible. Everything becomes possible for Quebec," Duceppe said.
Premier Jean Charest's Liberals have a majority government in Quebec and can wait until December 2013 before calling an election.
NDP visits N.B.
Layton, meanwhile, started the day in Saint John and will wrap with a rally in Gatineau, Que., as he attempts to capitalize on his party's apparent momentum. A recent poll suggested NDP support is climbing in Quebec at the expense of the Bloc.
When speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people overlooking Saint John harbour, Layton urged the supporters to pull together for the final week of the campaign.
"You deserve a prime minister you can trust … who will show up and fight for you every day," he said, repeating a dig at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's attendance record for votes in the House of Commons.
"We're all in this together. We've got seven days left," Layton told the crowd. "Let's roll up our sleeves and make it happen."
Layton was joined by his 10 New Brunswick candidates, including Yvon Godin, who was first elected in 1997 and has been the party's sole MP from New Brunswick since 2000.
While polls show the NDP getting a jolt of popularity in Quebec, and with an NDP provincial government in neighbouring Nova Scotia, there is still little evidence an orange tide will seep into New Brunswick.
Layton's only appearance in New Brunswick during the campaign was in the riding of Saint John, which the Tories won by fewer than 500 votes in 2008. However, the NDP garnered only 15 per cent of the vote in the southern New Brunswick riding.
No decision on foreign telecom ownership: Harper
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was to spend the day campaigning in Ontario, starting with a campaign event at a local college in Sault Ste. Marie and finishing with a rally in Windsor.
Speaking at the Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology, Harper focused on what he called the party's four key priorities: jobs and maintaining economic growth, support for senior citizens, continued six per cent annual increases for health care, and bundling crime-reduction bills into one.
Answering reporter questions afterward, Harper batted down a suggestion that the party needs to change the tone of Parliament or the use of attack ads.
"Politics is a lot of give and take…," he said, "and we're in a vigorous campaign."
Asked about the Tories plans for allowing greater foreign ownership of companies in Canada's telecommunications sector, he offered no specifics on to what degree that might change in the event tof a majority Conservative government,
"We’re guided by two things: first of all to ensure whatever changes we make, they are oriented toward providing more choice and options and competition and competitive prices for consumers," he said. "And also that we do not lose a strong telecommunications sector here in this country. So we are proceeding very cautiously."
The ad describes them both as "career politicians — two sides of the same coin." As the announcer speaks, the screen shows a Canadian dollar, flipping to show first Stephen Harper and then Jack Layton.
"One will give your tax dollars to big banks and rich oil companies … the other will jack up your taxes to pay for $70 billion in new spending."
Parties criss-cross country
Ignatieff is criss-crossing the country Monday as the final week of the campaign gets underway.
He started the day with a media availability session in Thunder Bay, Ont., then travelled to the West Coast, where he was scheduled to visit a local business in West Vancouver, followed by an evening town hall in Vancouver.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sticks to her campaign strategy of focusing on her home riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands on Monday. May is taking on incumbent Conservative Gary Lunn.
She was scheduled to wave to commuters at a mall in Saanich in the morning, followed by a meeting with home-support workers in Victoria's Gordon Head, and door-to-door canvassing in Sidney, B.C., on Monday evening.