Layton turns attacks back on rivals

NDP Leader Jack Layton is turning the attacks from his three political rivals back at them as he tries to capitalize on his party's apparent momentum in the polls.

NDP Leader Jack Layton is turning the attacks from his three political rivals back at them as he tries to capitalize on his party's apparent momentum in the polls.

Layton acknowledged the attacks that have been directed at him by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

"Now, the old parties are spending the last week on the attack, hoping to drown out the voices for change in Canada," Layton said at a campaign event in Winnipeg. 

"Well, in the final days of this campaign, New Democrats will launch a few attacks of our own. My friends, I will attack health-care wait times. I will attack doctor shortages. I will attack seniors' poverty. I will tackle the crisis in retirement security."

The NDP has seen a bump in popularity in recent public opinion polls, with some showing that Layton's party is second nationally and first in the province of Quebec.

The Bloc has been trying to halt any loss of support in Quebec by appealing to the party's sovereigntist base.

Meanwhile, former NDP premiers Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh came out to say why they quit the party and joined the Liberals on Tuesday.

As well, Ignatieff released an open letter to Quebec voters on Wednesday morning urging them to stick with the Liberals.

NDP defends economic policies

Layton was also forced to defend his party from criticism that Canada’s financial community is getting nervous about the possibility of the NDP getting close to power.

Layton said NDP governments in Manitoba and Nova Scotia have shown they can deliver balanced budgets and surpluses. He said that should calm any concerns in the financial community.

He also said his party's economic policies will provide stability.

"It’s a question for business of ensuring some degree of predictability," Layton said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton addresses supporters during a campaign stop at the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))
"That’s the most important thing. And that our economic approach would be step-by-step, affordable and realistic and that’s, I think, what businesses are looking for today."

In Edmonton in the evening, Layton told supporters he would work hard for Canadians the day after the vote, and not as an opposition leader.

"You deserve a prime minister you can trust … and I'm running to be that prime minister," said Layton. "We're on the threshold of something exciting. The winds of change are blowing."

The Liberals issued a statement on Wednesday, asking the NDP to explain how it plans to raise $8.6 billion by closing "tax havens."

The Liberal statement asked Layton to explain how he would change the tax rules and if it would impact individuals.

Speaking in Winnipeg, Layton said corporations have "socked away" billions of dollars in offshore bank accounts.

The NDP leader said the Liberals and the Conservatives have failed to close the tax loopholes.

"But now [the Conservatives] are simply protecting those who are inappropriately socking their money away, hiding it away from taxation offshore," Layton said.

"Most Canadians are filing their tax returns right now, and they’re paying every cent that the government formulas say they have to pay. Why is it that the billionaires get to park their money off in some sunny place and end run our laws? We think that’s wrong."

In Toronto, Ignatieff, who spoke after a fiery speech from former prime minister Jean Chrétien, took aim at the NDP's platform.

"The NDP don't have a program. They have a fantasy list," said Ignatieff.

Harper, speaking in St. Catharines, Ont. on Wednesday evening, again focused on the NDP's proposed cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, saying the party has $20 billion worth of hidden carbon taxes in its platform.

He said the NDP and the Liberals don't have anything in their platforms to run the country.

Floods are 'a difficult time'

Layton started his speech by praising the Manitobans who have been forced from their homes by the recent floods

"It's been a difficult time for the people of this province. Families have lost their homes.  Tragically, two people have lost their lives," Layton said.

When the flood levels return to normal, the NDP leader said the federal government must sit down and discuss the options of mitigating future floods.

"But for now, let me say to the people of Manitoba that all Canadians stand with you at this time," Layton said.

There have been 30 states of emergency declared by Manitoba municipalities. The total number of evacuees provincewide is now at least 1,772 and expected to climb.

A similar evacuation in 2009 cost $1.4 million and lasted a month.