Nfld. & Labrador

Harper dangerous even with another minority government: Williams

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said Wednesday that even another minority Conservative government would be ruinous for Canadians.

Labels Conservative leader a fraud for breaking written election promises

Danny Williams launched one attack after another against Stephen Harper during a speech Wednesday to the St. John's Board of Trade. ((CBC))

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said Wednesday that even another minority Conservative government would be ruinous for Canadians.

In a nationally televised address to a St. John's business group, Williams — who has launched a campaign to defeat Conservative candidates in his province in the Oct. 14 federal election — gave what he called "a dire warning for all Canadians" about Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

"If [he] is prepared to slash program spending when he has large surpluses and break his written word as the leader of a minority government, the future of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — and indeed all Canadians — will be very bleak under a Conservative majority," Williams said.

A Progressive Conservative, Williams attacked Harper as a "fraud" and the architect of a "right-wing Conservative-Reform party" who has broken written promises from previous election campaigns since the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

"A majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history," Williams warned.

"Even without a majority, he has cut funding for minorities, cut funding for literacy, cut funding to students, volunteers, museums and arts and culture groups right across the country [and] his government cut funding to women's groups and … actually went so far as to remove the federal mandate to advance equality for women," Williams told an audience at a St. John's Board of Trade luncheon.

"This all happened under a minority government. What in heaven's name will happen if he gets a majority?"

ABC campaign having effect, Conservatives admit

The Conservatives held three of Newfoundland and Labrador's seven seats when Parliament was dissolved this week. However, two veteran MPs — Norm Doyle and Loyola Hearn — are retiring, and local Conservative organizers have admitted Williams's "anything but Conservative" campaign has made it difficult to attract candidates in the province.

Williams has garnered the support of all but one member of his 44-member Progressive Conservative caucus to campaign against Conservative candidates in the federal election.

While Williams has not yet campaigned against the Conservatives in other provinces, his comments Wednesday were clearly aimed at voters beyond his own province.

"Make no mistake — you won't hear Stephen Harper admit he may win a majority government because he is terrified that people might actually stop and think about the consequences," Williams said.

"Well, I beg you all today — stop, think and decide if that is what this country deserves," Williams said.

"When we vote, I would rather that we stand on the solid ground of principles than on the shaky ground of broken promises. If you believe the country deserves better, you know what to do. It is as easy as ABC."

Harper spoke later Wednesday afternoon, while campaigning in Vaughan, Ont., although he did not comment on the premier's criticism.

In campaign-style appearances in southern Newfoundland communities last month, Harper dismissed the ABC campaign, and added his party is best placed to respond to concerns of Newfoundland and Labrador voters. Harper said he hopes the Conservatives would gain seats in the province.

Williams fell out with Harper in 2006 when Harper informed Williams he was planning to change party policy and incorporate non-renewable energy resources into the federal equalization formula.

Williams spelled out his ABC plan last year, when the equalization formula was revised.

Williams and his cabinet ministers have been locked in a rhetorical war with federal Conservatives over numerous issues, from a new prison for the province to funding for arts groups.

Puffin attack ad sparks protest

Meanwhile, Williams brought a dash of political theatre to his speech, with an attack on the Conservatives for a since-pulled online advertisement that showed a puffin pooping on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

An actor wearing a puffin costume encouraged people to vote ABC, or 'anything but Conservative.' ((CBC))

Williams called on Harper to stop using the puffin — the provincial bird of Newfoundland and Labrador — in attack ads.

"Leave our provincial bird out of [your] nasty, disgusting, personal attack ads," said Williams.

"The people of this province didn't appreciate being used by you for our votes the last time and our birds don't particularly like being used by you, either," he said.

With that, an actor wearing the costume of Buddy the Puffin — the mascot of the former St. John's Maple Leafs, and still a well-known character in St. John's — marched near the dais in a hotel ballroom, toting a large sign with the letters "ABC" painted on.

On Tuesday, Harper apologized to Dion for the ad, which he admitted was "tasteless." It was pulled down from a Conservative website early Tuesday.