Tory majority key to stopping sovereigntists: Harper

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says a Conservative majority is the only way to stop Quebec sovereigntists.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says a majority government is necessary to avoid another Quebec referendum 1:16

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says a Conservative majority is the only way to stop Quebec sovereigntists.

"I don't want to get in too much to talking about the sovereignty movement and Quebec provincial politics, but what I do want to note is what Mr. Duceppe has said coming out of that PQ convention [Sunday] — he has said that they are moving towards, they are walking towards, his objective  — the sovereignty of Quebec and another Quebec referendum," Harper told reporters.

"And [Duceppe] says step one to achieve that is to stop a federal Conservative majority government in Ottawa. Step one is to weaken the country, have a weak government in Ottawa, and that is another reason why Canadians, we believe, must choose a strong, stable, national Conservative majority."

Harper was responding to comments made by Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who said the two conditions for another referendum on Quebec separating from Canada are Bloc representation in Ottawa and a Parti Québécois government in Quebec.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff denounced Harper's remarks as fear-mongering to gain votes at a "town hall" event in North Vancouver.

"Mr. Harper is now saying, 'You've got to give me a majority ... otherwise, I'm the only person who can deal with Quebec,'" Ignatieff said. "It's all the language of fear: fear of democracy, fear of elections, fear of instability, and now the latest thing he pulls out is fear of sovereignty. We have nothing to fear here."

Duceppe's comments about sovereignty came after a fiery speech at a Parti Québécois conference in Montreal.

Duceppe said Harper doesn’t understand the reality in Quebec, telling the crowd that voting for the Bloc was the best way to block a Conservative majority.

He also blasted the other parties, saying they weren't focused on Quebec's needs.

CBC’s James Fitz-Morris reported Duceppe took time to single out the NDP, who are aiming to hold deputy leader Thomas Mulcair's Outremont seat in Montreal and pick up a few others.

While a recent uptick in support for the NDP in Quebec may not translate into many more seats, gains in voter support by the NDP are seen as likely coming at the expense of the Bloc.

The Bloc leader also congratulated  Pauline Marois, who received a strong endorsement of her leadership Saturday from Parti Québécois members.

Federal leaders push for support

Harper and Michael Ignatieff both campaigned in B.C.’s Lower Mainland Sunday, while NDP Leader Jack Layton continued his swing through Atlantic Canada.

NDP Leader Jack Layton walks out of a farmers' market Sunday in Halifax N.S. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Layton told reporters Sunday the NDP will be pushing hard in the last two weeks of the campaign as they try to build support ahead of the May 2 election.

"I think it's a question of emphasizing the fact that people have a choice in this election," Layton said during a campaign stop at a farmers market in Halifax.

"That old idea that you have to choose one of the old parties that have let you down in the past is not valid."

The NDP leader, who has been campaigning in  Atlantic Canada, said his party has grown in recent elections and hopes to see more gains this time around.

Layton hit the campaign trail Sunday with local candidate Gordon Earle, who is trying to defeat incumbent Conservative candidate Gerald Keddy in the South Shore-St. Margaret's riding.

New Democrats also hope to make gains in the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding, where former provincial NDP leader Robert Chisholm is trying to unseat Liberal Michael Savage.

Ignatieff, Harper in B.C.

Harper used a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C., Sunday to talk about the Tories' plan to crack down on human smuggling.

Harper said Canada is a nation of immigrants where thousands of newcomers are welcomed each year, but he said concerns about human smuggling must be addressed.

He said a re-elected Conservative government would re-introduce Bill C-49, which, among other measures, would impose stringent penalties on human smuggling and give law enforcement agencies more power to go after those who run smuggling operations.

Harper wrapped up his appearance with his often repeated message about the importance of choosing a "strong, stable, national majority Conservative government."

The Tories currently hold 21 seats in British Columbia and are hoping to gain ground with wins in  several hotly contested swing ridings.

In the Vancouver South riding, Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh was re-elected by 20 votes over Conservative Wai Young in 2008. Young is running again.

Ignatieff spent the whole day in B.C. with stops in Vancouver and Victoria. During his morning stop at local businesses in Vancouver, Ignatieff was accompanied by former prime minister Paul Martin.

Martin joined Ignatieff in Edmonton on Saturday night, where the current Liberal leader credited him for saving the Canada Pension Plan, public health care and Canada's public finances.

Conservative candidate Gary Lunn and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May are competing in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Canadian Press)

Martin, meanwhile, took aim at the Conservatives' record as fiscal managers.

"They messed up the economy, they took away our margin of error, they took away this country's ability to deal with the changes. Not only that, then they missed the signals of the global recession," Martin said to chants of "shame, shame" from the Edmonton crowd.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May attended a rally with Vancouver-area candidates before heading out on a Western whistle-stop tour. Much of May’s campaign has been in B.C., where she is hoping to defeat Conservative candidate Gary Lunn in the riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands.

With files from The Canadian Press