Liberals 'big tent' party, Dion tells progressive voters

Stéphane Dion stepped up his appeal to voters across Canada's political spectrum on Tuesday, saying the Liberals are the "big tent" party that as a government can build a strong economy, build social justice and lead the fight against climate change.

Stéphane Dion stepped up his appeal to voters across Canada's political spectrum on Tuesday, saying the Liberals are the "big tent" party that as a government can build a strong economy, build social justice and lead the fight against climate change.

Speaking at a campaign stop in Vancouver, Dion said NDP and Green supporters "share a lot of values" with his party in wanting a greener and fairer Canada, while also seeking to replace Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

"This tent is the Liberal party of Canada," he said, while touting his centrist approach over what he said were the ideological extremes of either the Tories or the New Democrats.

He said Conservatives concerned with the growing economic turmoil will appreciate the fiscal discipline previous Liberal governments have demonstrated.

Dion also sought to appeal to voters in his home province, including Bloc supporters, saying Quebecers have "something greater to do" than offer up a protest vote against the Tories.

"That is to offer our talents as Quebecers, our culture," he said.

Dion said the Conservatives don't believe the federal government must play a major role in helping people during tough times, including the uncertain economic situation facing them now.

Harper game plan 'distortion and dishonesty'

The appeal comes on the same day that Harper released his party's platform, which Dion said was "no plan" to keep Canada competitive and protect the country's reeling manufacturing sector amid growing global economic uncertainty.

"Stephen Harper's game plan is one of distortion and dishonesty," he told reporters. "His retail politics is not a vision."

The Liberal leader has promised a 30-day action plan to address pressing economic issues if he becomes prime minister, with stepped-up spending on infrastructure, consultations with regulatory agencies and private-sector economists and talks with the provincial premiers.

He said he would consider a number of options to help Canadians immediately as prime minister, including exempting seniors from having to make an annual withdrawal from their registered retirement income funds when the stock market is struggling.

Dion also said a Liberal government would consider ramping up insurance on Canadians' savings, but he would not give specifics when pressed for more details and denied he was dangling a new policy proposal in front of voters just seven days before the election.

"I will not give a number … because I want to do the right thing," he told reporters. "I'm not the prime minister today. I don't have all the information that a prime minister has."

Dion, whose platform calls for income-tax cuts to be paid for by taxes on carbon fuels, cited an open letter this week from more than 230 economists teaching in Canadian universities calling for economically coherent action on climate change and putting a price on carbon.

Harper has repeatedly attacked Dion's Green Shift plan, saying Tuesday it was "a recipe for disaster" and would lead Canada into recession and deficit.

"He will, Stephen Harper, say that they are crazy, they are insane," Dion said. "There is only one economist who is disagreeing with them and he's still prime minister, but hopefully, won't be by next Tuesday."

With files from the Canadian Press