Leaders make final campaign push
Dion, Harper criss-cross country; Layton spends final day in Ontario
The leaders of the federal parties were on a cross-country blitz on Thanksgiving Day to appeal to as many voters as possible in the final day of campaigning before Tuesday's election.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who over the weekend predicted another minority government for either his party or the Liberals, was in the midst of a three-province hop, while Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion set his sights on four.
Elsewhere, NDP Leader Jack Layton hopscotched across the Greater Toronto Area on Monday to make his last kitchen-table appeal to voters in areas reeling from job losses in the province's manufacturing sector.
While recent opinion polls suggest the Conservatives enjoy at least a nine-point lead over Dion's Liberals, Harper said Monday a Tory victory is by no means assured.
"We need every seat we can get. We need every vote we can get and we need you to get out [and] finish the work you've been doing," Harper told a crowd of about 600 supporters during an early-morning campaign stop in the P.E.I. town of Cornwall.
The Conservatives hope to capture the Egmont riding, in what would be the party's first seat on the Liberal-dominated island in almost 25 years.
Dion to voters: 'go green, vote red'
"It has become clear that if we come together, if we pull our votes together, we will win this election," Dion told supporters at a rally in Fredericton, a riding considered up for grabs following longtime Liberal MP Andy Scott's departure from politics.
Harper also visited the riding on Monday before heading west to Vancouver, then returning to Calgary.
Harper has appealled to voters in Quebec to abandon the Bloc Québécois, a party he said "will only be spectators" outside of whatever government is elected. But recent polls suggest support for the Bloc is solidifying.
The Conservative leader, who has portrayed Dion's plans as risky at a time of economic uncertainty, was not taking questions from reporters during the final day of campaigning, said the CBC's Julie Van Dusen, who is covering the campaign from Ottawa.
Midway through the five-week election campaign, the economy rose to the top of mind for Canadians as they watched the U.S. financial crisis unfold and spread around the globe.
"The No. 1 job of the next prime minister of Canada is to protect this country's economy — our earnings, savings, and jobs, at a time of global economic uncertainty," Harper said.
Dion in turn has accused the Conservatives of lying over his Green Shift plan, which calls for income tax cuts paid for by a tax on carbon fuels. Harper has lambasted the plan, saying it would lead to federal deficits, higher costs for Canadians and take the country into a recession.
'He must lose on this lie'
The Liberal leader countered that the plan would give a majority of Canadian families a 10-per-cent reduction on their personal income taxes, while not increasing the tax on gasoline at the pumps.
"Stephen Harper has built his campaign on a lie; he must lose on this lie," he said.
Dion also said Harper's response to the global economic turmoil in recent weeks shows that he "has no plan, at least no plan that he wants to communicate to Canadians."
"We have a plan to create jobs, to ensure that we are doing all we can in these tough economic times to protect our pensions, our savings, our mortgages, and our jobs," he said.
In an interview with CBC's Don Newman on Politics, Dion also heralded Paul Krugman's win on Monday of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics, saying the U.S. economist is renowned for supporting a shift from taxing income and investment to pollution such as the one proposed by the Liberals.
On Sunday, Dion insisted that he would not step down as Liberal leader if his party is defeated on Tuesday.
Dion later stopped in Longueuil, Que., and Winnipeg, Man., before ending the day in Richmond, B.C.
Layton dismisses questions over coalition
During a campaign stop in Toronto on Monday, Layton dismissed the latest polls suggesting his party remained a distant third with no realistic chance of forming a government with him at the helm.
"Have you counted the ballots already?" he asked reporters. "I used to teach political science. … Let's just say that it is very rare that [opinion] polls are the results on election day."
But when pressed by reporters, Layton refused to say whether he would accept an invitation by Dion to join the Liberals in a coalition government to stop the Conservatives.
"I will wait until the voters decide," he said, adding that he would offer to work with the other leaders — as prime minister.
Layton took aim at one of Harper's chief cabinet members in his first appearance in Oshawa on Monday as part of his final stops in the vote-rich province, home to 106 of the 308 federal ridings.
Speaking in the home riding of Conservative incumbent and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Layton insisted Harper has shown in the past five weeks he and his government are out of touch with the concerns of Canadians.
"Nobody knows that better than the people here in Oshawa as we've watched some of the best jobs in this country disappear because of a complete lack of policy, or strategy or even a sense of caring about the issue from our government, including from the Conservative member here," Layton told supporters.
The NDP leader said his party was best equipped to protect the interests of Canadian families in times of economic uncertainty.
'Rise up!': Layton woos youth vote
Layton has intensified his criticism of his Liberal rival in recent days, saying Dion wasn't ready to be opposition leader or prime minister because he and his party propped up the Harper government 43 times in the last Parliament.
"I think that's what this election's boiling down to — who's going to be on people's side? Who's going to be on your side?" he said.
Layton later made an appearance at MuchMusic in downtown Toronto to try to capture the youth vote.
"Young people don't tend to vote and I say to young people, 'Rise up,' " said Layton in reference to the 1983 hit by Toronto band Parachute Club.
He told the crowd gathered on the colourful set that there should be a leaders' debate focused on education, remarking that saddling students with debt is "nuts."
Calling the Liberals the "same old, same old," he urged young people to cast their ballot for the NDP. "I think it's time for real change," he said.
During his hour-long appearance, the New Democrat fielded questions on everything from the Afghan mission to student debt to whether he liked pop singer Britney Spears.
"Not that much" was Layton's response to the latter before he agreed to introduce her new music video Womanizer.
Duceppe, May make final appeals
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe spent Monday campaigning in key Quebec ridings where the Bloc hopes to unseat Tory incumbents.
While on the hustings in a rural Quebec riding on Sunday, he commented to reporters that he doesn't think a third minority government in four years will escalate tensions between Ottawa and Quebec. But he expressed doubts the Tories would work with the other parties.
Green Leader Elizabeth May continued campaigning in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova in her attempt to unseat the Conservative incumbent, Defence Minister Peter MacKay. He has held the seat since 1997.
Her final day of campaigning comes after her party issued a statement Sunday denying that May called on supporters to vote strategically.
The Canadian Press initially quoted her as saying earlier in the day that "there's no question that there are some ridings where you might say to vote Green you ought to vote NDP to stop a Conservative from winning, and in some ridings you might want to vote Liberal to stop a Conservative from winning."
May said she was responding to climate scientists who posted a list of tight ridings and her answer was misconstrued.
She said she won't "prescribe" how Canadian voters should cast their ballot nor would she abandon Green candidates.
"I've always said that a minority government with Stéphane Dion and a lot of Greens in the House of Commons would be the best outcome in this election."
Asked whether she would try to secure a seat through a byelection elsewhere if MacKay wins, May rejected the idea.
"I’m never running anywhere but Central Nova. This is where I live and where I will always run," she told CBC.
Whatever the outcome, May lauded the election campaign as a "watershed" for her party, particularly her coup in securing a spot at the table for the two televised leaders' debates.
With files from the Canadian Press