Liberal party ready for election: Dion
Conservatives break out new election ads, to begin airing Friday
"We're ready. We're well-organized and we're determined to win this election," Dion told reporters at a news conference in Montreal.
The prime minister has said he's considering whether an election needs to be called, a decision he expects to make in the next few weeks. He further hinted at an imminent election on Thursday while in Inuvik, N.W.T., saying, "all the signs indicate that this Parliament is at the end of its productiveness."
Senior Conservatives have suggested Harper could pull the plug on his government as early as Tuesday after the Labour Day weekend.
The Tories further fuelled election speculation on Thursday with the unveiling of a new series of television advertisements that will begin airing Friday.
The 30-second spots touch on a range of issues, including taxes, crime, the economy and the military. The ads play up Harper as a "family man" and attempt to depict him as a solid leader — in sharp contrast to a spate of Conservative commercials from earlier in the summer, which focused on attacking Dion and his proposal to tax carbon emissions.
Meetings 'a way of saving face': Dion
Harper has sought meetings with all three opposition leaders to see if they can agree on an agenda for the fall session of Parliament, scheduled to begin Sept. 15.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe has indicated he won't be available until Sept. 5, though sources told the Canadian Press on Thursday the two are meeting Friday, and Dion has indicated he won't be available until Sept. 9.
Harper said he is unwilling to wait until Sept. 9 to discuss whether Parliament can continue as is.
The meeting would occur a day after three federal byelections in Quebec and Ontario; a fourth byelection is slated to take place in Ontario on Sept. 22.
"These meetings are a way of saving face," Dion said Thursday. "And he's breaking his word to voters not to have an election."
Election call set in motion?
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister's Office announced that Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean would cancel her trip to the Paralympic Games in Beijing, which begin Sept. 6, a move further suggesting he will pull the plug on his current minority government.
Harper has said he wouldn't be breaking his promise to Canadians if he called an election this fall, a year ahead of the fixed date set by his own government.
Harper said the goal of the fixed election date — the next one being Oct. 19, 2009 — is to provide Canadians with some sense of certainty. But he said fixed election dates do not apply to minority governments.
"I think we were right not to have an election before Canadians can find out more about what this government is about," said Dion. "We can see with these cuts what this government is about."
The government recently announced a $45 million cut in funding for arts and culture programs, which Dion said he'd restore if elected.