Martin wraps campaign in constitutional pledge
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | 10:49 AM ET
"The courts shouldn't be overturned by politicians," the Liberal leader said in Monday's debate, seeking to highlight his differences with Conservative Stephen Harper on social issues. That debate was in English; Tuesday's is in French.
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Liberal Leader Paul Martin after the leaders debate in Montreal,Monday, January 9. (CP Photo/Frank Gunn)
|DEBATE DETAILS Final Leaders Debate: Jan. 10, 2006, 8-10 p.m. EST Join our CBC.ca Reality Check team for live online analysis of the second set of federal leaders debates, being held at La Maison de Radio-Canada in Montreal. The French debate takes place, Tuesday, Jan. 10, moderated by TVA's Sophie Thibault. From the first round of debates Analysis of the first French-language debate on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005 Analysis of the first English-language debate on Friday, Dec. 16, 2005|
The Conservative leader has promised a free vote on the issue if he is elected, but has pledged not to use the clause.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe. Liberal Leader Paul Martin and NDP Leader Jack Layton, left to right, reach out to shake hands at the English leaders' debate, Jan. 9. (CP photo)
- Reality Check: Notwithstanding notwithstanding
The clause allows the federal government or a provincial legislature to enact legislation to override several sections of the charter that deal with fundamental freedoms, legal rights and equality rights.
Martin asked Harper to join him in seeking to ban the federal government from being able to use the clause. But Harper rejected Martin's offer, saying the charter supports a proper balance between the courts and politicians.
Martin began the debate zeroing in on Harper, trying to paint him as a radical with a hidden agenda who would raise taxes on the poor and cut social services.
"What else will he cut? He needs to tell us," Martin said.
Income trust affair
But Martin was attacked on the sponsorship scandal and was forced to defend Finance Minister Ralph Goodale over the income trust affair.
"Let me say this is a sad time in Canadian politics because the ethical standards have not been set properly by the government," NDP Leader Jack Layton said.
The RCMP is investigating the possibility that information was leaked about Goodale's pre-election announcement regarding income trusts.
The issue prompted Harper to ask Martin: "How many criminal investigations are going on in your government?"
Martin said the attacks on his government are purely "political" and that voters want to hear about the issues.
"The fact is we have to have a more intelligent debate. Enough is enough. These drive-by smears doesn't make sense," he said.
Harper was put on the defensive over those who contributed to his leadership campaign, with Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe demanding the Tory leader make public those names. Harper insisted that he has revealed those contributors.
In May 2004, the Conservative party released a complete list of spending and donors for leadership candidates Harper, Tony Clement and Belinda Stronach.
In 2002, Harper released a partial list of donors to his campaign for the leadership of the Alliance party that year. Missing from that list were the names of 10 large donors who asked not to be revealed and more than 9,000 people who gave less than $1,000 each.
- FROM OCT. 2, 2002: Harper lists some of his leadership campaign contributors
- FROM MAY 21, 2004: Harper discloses leadership campaign donors
On gun crime, Harper was asked by debate moderator Steve Paikin if the separate shooting deaths of a Toronto teen and four RCMP officers would have occurred if his crime policies had been in place.
Harper said he did not want to point a finger at individual politicians for individual acts, stressing that criminals are responsible for criminal actions.
But he said James Roszko, who had a lengthy criminal record and who killed the four Mounties, would not have been at large if there had been mandatory minimum sentences.
Harper, Martin and Layton have all promised to institute mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. But Harper said despite their promises, the Liberals don't believe in mandatory minimum sentences, pointing out they had 13 years to bring them in.
Martin took a shot at "American conservatives," slamming Harper for representing their values by citing speeches Harper has made in the past.
He said Harper spoke to a U.S. conservative group and said they were "an inspiration for Canada" and that Canadians "were second rate."
"I don't believe that Canada was built on American conservative values," Martin said. "It was built on compassion, on generosity, on sharing and understanding."
"America is our neighbour. It's not our nation."
But Harper shot back at Martin, hammering his family's company, Canadian Steamship Lines, for not flying the Canadian flag.
"My forefathers have lived under the flag of this country for six generations," Harper said. "I have friends and relatives across this country and I have children growing up under the flag of this country, and my business, our family business, always operated flying the flag of this country.
"What I say to Mr. Martin is the values of ordinary Canadians are honesty, hard work, integrity and accountability, and your government, Mr. Martin, has not represented those values in Parliament."
On the issue of tax cuts, Paikin asked Harper about recent reports that he would cancel the Liberal tax-cut program, which would see the lowest income earners' tax rates go from 15 per cent to 16 per cent.
Harper defended his tax package, saying his plan to cut the GST and other selective income tax cuts would provide more tax relief to all Canadians. He said the Liberal plan is designed for people in the top two-thirds of income brackets.
But Martin rejected Harper's take on the Liberal tax plan.
"The fact is our tax cut is directed towards middle-class Canadians and low-income Canadians, and they are the ones who need it the most," Martin said.
On health care, Martin and Harper both claimed to be the best protector of medicare, but Layton cautioned voters not to listen to either leader.
"Neither promises can be trusted, neither will stop the growth of private care," Layton said.
As for national unity, Martin again clashed with Duceppe, who said the Liberal leader should recognize that Quebecers are different.
"We are different," Duceppe said. "Everyone in Quebec knows that Quebec is quite different from the rest of Canada. Not better, not worse. Plain different."
But Martin said all Canadians share the same values.
"I'm a Quebecer and simply don't tell me that my values are different," Martin said. "My values are the same values as somebody who lives in Nova Scotia, Ontario or Western Canada. The fact is that Quebecers have this same feeling. They want to build a great country."
The final debate is Tuesday in French, also in Montreal. The election is Jan. 23.
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Always considered important, the debates are taking on added weight this week as recent polls have shown the Conservatives overtaking the Liberals for the lead.
The Conservatives have ridden a wave of policy announcements in a well-orchestrated campaign to make the momentum move in their direction, while the Liberals have been sliding as controversy continues to dog them.
And last week, the Mounties were asked to look into grants given to Option Canada, a federalist group formed before the 1995 Quebec referendum.
- FROM JAN. 6, 2005: U.S. market watchdog looking into income trust affair
Harper said on the weekend he isn't counting on the whiff of scandal to win the election for him.
The Liberal campaign machinery has sharpened its focus on the Conservatives. Last week, Martin issued a series of policy announcements, and on the weekend released a critique of the Conservatives' fiscal plan.
- FROM JAN. 8, 2005: Liberals criticize projected Tory spending
The Conservatives say the Conference Board of Canada has approved their economic plan.
The NDP's main strategy recently has become an effort simply to be heard amid the din of the Liberal-Conservative battle, and the debates offer Layton an opportunity to cut through.
- FROM JAN. 5, 2005: Greens launch formal complaint over debate exclusion
The Green party, meanwhile, has complained to the CRTC that leader Jim Harris isn't being allowed to take part in the debates.