Election rhetoric flies over racism and religion

Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day reacted angrily to allegations his party's supporters are bigots and racists, as well as to a CBC television story that looked at his religious and political beliefs.

Day's ire was sparked by comments from Liberal cabinet minister Elinor Caplan on Tuesday night. She told a crowd in her Toronto-area riding that the Alliance was a reflection of its supporters.

"Their supporters are Holocaust deniers, prominent bigots and racists," Caplan said, referring to Day's endorsement by Doug Christie, a lawyer for Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel and Jim Keegstra.

Day called her statement ridiculous and said the accusations show the Liberals are desperate. 

"We discuss policies based on merit. We invite other people to discuss them at that level and it's a sign that you learn in high school debating," Day said on Wednesday.

"When the other side resorts to shrill, unsubstantiated accusations, it means they've lost the debate. They've panicked. They're in fear of losing power."

Day told Liberal Leader Jean Chrtien to stop the racial attacks on his party.

Chrtien said name-calling is part of politics, but he asked for a bit more decorum all around in the days leading to the Nov. 27 election.

"I've been around politics and I've given shots and I've received shots," he said. "But I think everybody in every camp should tone it down."

Tory Leader Joe Clark said that Caplan better have the facts to back up her statements.

The Alliance also dealt with allegations of racial slurs in Regina on Tuesday night. Alliance supporters and protesters confronted each other before a speech by Day at a local church hall.

Activist Kripa Sekhar, an Indo-Canadian, said when she tried to enter the hall, she was told there were no churches in her country, and that she should "go back to where she came from."

Local Alliance candidate James Rybchuk said on Wednesday that one of his supporters has apologized for the incident and that the comments do not reflect his or the Alliance's beliefs.

But Rybchuk added the protesters are equally to blame because they were "trying to create an embarrassing situation."

Day was also angry at CBC Television on Wednesday. He said a report on The National the previous night, examining the relationship between his religious and political beliefs, was an example of "yellow journalism."

"CBC was a dredging up of things that were dealt with months and months ago," he said, adding he was upset he wasn't asked to comment.

The CBC report included an interview with a teacher who said Day told students at Alberta's Red Deer College in 1997 that creationism was as plausible a theory as evolutionism.

Meanwhile, Chrtien dismissed suggestions his leadership could hurt the Liberal's chances of winning a third majority.

Transport Minister David Collenette is said to have admitted at a strategy meeting that Chrtien is a problem and voters are saying they want Finance Minister Paul Martin to lead the party.

Chrtien says he doesn't pretend all Liberals like him 100 per cent, but he's not worried about winning this election.

"It's part of the game in politics and I'm not worried about that," he said in Winnipeg.

Elsewhere, NDP Leader Alexa McDonough responded to Chrtien's partial acceptance of blame for some of the shortcomings in Canada's health care system.

She said Chrtien should accept responsibility, but that he hasn't taken the next step and produced a plan to correct the problems.

She criticized Chrtien for being out of touch with working women. Then she added that Day is "out of touch with this century; he's out of touch with this planet."

In Quebec, Bloc Qubcois Leader Gilles Duceppe said now that Chrtien has apologized for cutting employment insurance benefits and accepted some blame for the existence of private clinics, he should now admit he made mistakes in the job grants program.