Dion slams Harper for accusation Liberals cheering for recession

Stéphane Dion angrily dismissed accusations by Stephen Harper that he is "cheering" for a recession, saying no leader would ever wish misfortune on his country.

Stéphane Dion angrily dismissed accusations by Stephen Harper that he is "cheering" for a recession, saying no leader would ever wish misfortune on his country.

Speaking in the southwestern Ontario community of Belmont on Friday, the Liberal leader came out swinging against Harper's comments and said the Conservative leader had sunk to a new low.

"I never thought he'd be as low as that … because I'm criticizing his mismanagement of the economy," an enraged Dion said. "Shame on him!

"It happens that I think his right-wing policies that he's proposing for our economy will hurt people not because he wants that," said Dion, "but because he has the bad policies for the country, the bad ideology that he wants to import in Canada, solutions that did not work for the economy around the world."

In Dion's speech, he also mockingly apologized to Harper for hurting his feelings by bashing the Conservatives' economic record.

"I've hurt his feelings by talking about his awful economic record," said Dion, pointing to rising job losses, increasing inflation and faltering economic growth.

Harper calls Dion's behaviour 'irresponsible'

Campaigning in Alberta earlier in the day, Harper had accused his Liberal rival of "virtually cheering for there to be a recession" to achieve his party's objectives in the election.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper visits Nose Hill Park in Calgary on Friday. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))
He also accused Dion of "some of the most irresponsible behaviour of a Canadian political leader I've ever seen" during the federal election campaign.

"The only way there is going to be a recession is if they're elected, and that's why they're not going to be elected."

Harper insisted his party has a solid plan for the country's economy but that a weak Parliament would shake Canada's economic stability at a time of global uncertainty.

Campaigning in Alberta's oil country as polls suggested his party enjoyed a comfortable lead over the Liberals, Harper made no mention of a potential Conservative majority.

But he said Canadians must choose in the Oct. 14 federal election between a "strong" government to keep Canada on track and a "weak Parliament that will put our economic stability at risk."

'Clean-energy superpower'

Speaking in Calgary, Harper said his party promises to turn Canada into a "clean-energy superpower" if re-elected.

Harper pledged the Conservative government would reaffirm Canada's position that the North American Free Trade Agreement cannot require it to export bulk water to other NAFTA countries.

He said his government was the first in Canadian history to introduce a regulatory framework to produce greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets for Canadian industry.

Harper said the Conservatives would also prohibit the export of bitumen to countries without carbon-emission targets equivalent to Canada's.

Alberta's tarsands produce about 1.3 million barrels of the heavy, viscous black oil per day — about one-third of which is exported.

"Canada will be one of the world’s largest producers of energy, of oil, gas, uranium and hydroelectric power for a very long time to come," Harper said.

"But we must manage those resources to guarantee their strategic importance, to protect our environment, and to ensure that Canadians are the principal beneficiaries."

Other parties wrote off Alberta: Harper

He said he would also continue promoting the development of northern pipelines to carry oil and gas throughout Canada and for export.

Asked whether his party was taking support in the traditional Conservative stronghold for granted, Harper said he believed his government "finally brought Alberta into the Confederation."

He said that contrasted with attitudes to Alberta shown by the opposition parties, who have "written off" the province in terms of campaign support and never hesitated to use it as a "whipping boy."

"This remains the only party that shares any connection with Alberta," Harper said.

A small group of seniors, upset about a 0.7 per cent increase to their federal pensions, greeted Harper outside his campaign headquarters in southwest Calgary. Protester Larry Negrave said it works out to an increase of about $3.50 a month.

But Harper only waved at the group before getting into his vehicle and leaving.

RCMP not investigating Bernier, Tory leader says 

At the same news conference Friday, Harper was also asked to comment on a media report that police are quietly continuing to investigate allegations relating to Maxime Bernier and his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard, saying no one in the Conservative government is being investigated.

"There is no suggestion that the RCMP is investigating Minister Bernier, period," Harper said. "And quite frankly, any question that tries to suggest otherwise is misleading and inaccurate."

In its Friday edition, the Globe and Mail reported the RCMP are looking into whether Couillard lobbied Conservative officials on a federal real estate deal.

The paper also quote sources as saying Bernard Côté, another Tory official who dated Couillard, helped her mother obtain a federal patronage position in 2007.

Côté resigned from Public Works Minister Michael Fortier's office in June after it was revealed that he was dating Couillard while she was lobbying his department for a land developer.

Bernier, a Conservative who is running for re-election in the Quebec riding of Beauce, resigned from the foreign affairs portfolio in May after Couillard, who had past links to Quebec biker gangs, revealed in a television interview that he left confidential documents at her home.

With files from the Canadian Press