Ignatieff, Harper trade barbs on taxes, spending

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper squared off over financial issues Monday, with Ignatieff attacking Tory spending on prisons and defence and Harper promising to cut family taxes.

Harper, Layton, May go west; Ignatieff stumps in Ontario

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper squared off over financial issues Monday, with Ignatieff attacking Tory spending on prisons and defence and Harper promising to cut family taxes.

In Regina, NDP Leader Jack Layton said the Harper government is delivering "the same old scandals" that Canadians thought had been left behind when they ousted the Liberals in 2006.

Appearing in Toronto, Ignatieff said the Liberals want to be sure that there's money to reform and invest in health care. The Liberal leader accused the Conservative government of putting tax breaks for corporations ahead of families.

NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Regina Monday. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)
"If you spend the money on jets and jails and corporate tax cuts, and you face the renewal of that health accord in 2014, there isn't going to be enough there to save health care," he said.

"They’re investing in stealth fighter jets, $30 billion, and not telling Canadians the truth about what they’ll actually cost. They want to spend billions in putting kids in prison instead of getting kids the education to stay out of prison."

Harper’s family tax cut would allow households to share up to $50,000 of income for tax purposes, which he said would save them, on average, $1,300 a year. It wouldn’t kick in, however, until the federal budget is balanced, which isn’t currently expected until 2015, according to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s projections.

Harper said the Liberals are ignoring the choices that families make.

"We understand that household budgets are tight," he said. "We also understand that different families have different needs, different priorities, and that a one-size-fits-all, Ottawa-knows-best solution is never the answer."

But Ignatieff discounted the Tory promise because of the timing.

"The interesting thing is it’s going to take effect in five years," Ignatieff said. "Like he’s saying to middle class families, take a number and come back in five years, and we’ll see what we can do for you, right?"

Layton targets Sask. ridings

Meanwhile, Layton called on Saskatchewan voters to come back to the party they created.

"I think people are concluding one thing — that Ottawa is broken and it's time for us to fix it," he said in a speech to party faithful.

The province where Layton's party was born didn't hand the New Democrats a single seat in the last election. Of the 14 federal seats in the province, the Tories hold 13 and the Liberals hold one.

The NDP hopes it can win back a few of those seats, especially since the party placed second in 12 of the 14 ridings in the 2008 election. In most cases, however, the NDP placed a distant second.

Most campaign action Monday was scheduled for the West, as the May 2 campaign begins to gather momentum.

The exception was Ignatieff, who campaigned in Greater Toronto Area ridings, long considered Liberal strongholds. His schedule included a stop in Chinatown where the Liberals hope to unseat NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) and a news conference downtown with Ajax-Pickering incumbent Mark Holland, who was the Liberal Party's public safety critic before the election was called.

Ignatieff slams Kenney over 'ethnic' vote

Ignatieff capped the day with a speech at an evening rally in Mississauga-Erindale with Liberal candidate and former MP Omar Alghabra, where he fired a jab at the efforts of Harper and Jason Kenney, the Conservative government's immigration minister, to target the "ethnic" vote.

"I don't want to be the prime minister of 'you people,' " he said, seizing upon Harper's words in a speech Sunday, in which the Conservative leader praised a Toronto-area audience by saying: "You people have come to this country from the world over because you believe in this country."

"I want to be the prime minister of the Canadian people," Ignatieff said.

Harper rally pays tribute to fallen soldier

Harper's day wrapped up just outside Edmonton, in Beaumont, Alta., where he led his stump speech for incumbent Mike Lake (Mill Woods-Beaumont) at a local school with a moment of silence for Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, who was killed Sunday by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

The 24-year-old Montreal native, who was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, was a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment and based in CFB Valcartier in Quebec.

Harper noted the Edmonton area's deep connection with the Canadian Forces as the home base of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

"I know that in Edmonton … the sadness is felt by his friends and family and I know that sadness will be understood and widely shared by everyone here," he told the audience.

With files from The Canadian Press