As the parties enter their second full week Harper's strategy of attacks based on a fictional premise, taking credit for the recovery, avoiding answering inconvenient questions and pretending he has nothing to do with the sketchy cast of characters surrounding him is working... at least according to the latest NANOS poll. Their lead over the Liberals has increased in the last week in spite of numerous missteps by the PM and his party in the opening week of the campaign.
Today there was more of the kind of news that would rattle some parties and their followers but not this party, not now. The Canadian Press reported Sunday that Bruce Carson, one of Mr. Harper's closest advisers, was convicted on five counts of fraud – three more than previously known – and received court-ordered psychiatric treatment.
Harper says he wouldn’t have installed former adviser Bruce Carson in his Prime Minister’s Office if he had been aware of his past. The Conservative leader claims he was never told of Mr. Carson’s full criminal record. This seems unlikely and Carson's lawyer told the CP that Mr. Carson disclosed his entire criminal record during a security check as was required to become a senior staffer in the PMO.
The latest revelations should raise questions about Mr. Harper's judgment in hiring Mr. Carson as his chief policy analyst and troubleshooter. Mr. Carson would have been privy to top secret government files in his job as a senior adviser to the prime minister up until leaving the PMO in 2008. The PM's claims of "I didn't know until you just told me," ring false as someone in Mr. Carson's position would have been subject to a thorough review by both the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
So he had a five times convicted fraudster as his top advisor. What's the big deal?
Today on the trail Harper was doing what he could to further divide Canadians resurrecting the long-gun registry as an issue. To put extra emphasis on the divisiveness he seeks to create he said “We are the party that stands with rural Canada and understands your values and your way of life,” during a stop in Wainfleet, Ont.. Does that mean they don't understand urban Canadians or stand with them? Please, can someone call them out on this patent idiocy?
Jack Layton gave it a shot accusing Harper of "driving a wedge" between Canadians through the long-gun registry issue. "He goes into Welland for the second election in a row and doesn't even acknowledge the fact that hundreds of workers are losing their jobs and that the middle class is being wiped out in Welland!"
Jack had a campaign stop in Toronto where he talked about doubling public pension payouts. It's not a new pledge but it is one he hopes will appeal to Canadians who are approaching retirement. The NDP were also reaching out to workers who have lost their company pension plans when their employers have gone bankrupt. Pensioners and workers on long-term disability would be the first creditors to collect when a company goes under, according to the NDP proposal.
Michael Igantieff meanwhile was in the Maritimes today where according to a Canadian Press story, the Liberals are setting their campaign sights on military veterans with a $120-million “Vets, not jets” promise. Ignatieff told supporters in Halifax today that a Liberal government would pay the full costs of tuition, books, accommodations and living expenses for up to four years of post-secondary education or technical training for veterans.
The 94-page Liberal document that outlines and costs the Liberal platform which was released on Sunday was given faint praise in today's Globe and Mail. They called it prudent and pragmatic which is okay but then there was insult as it was likened to a document that could have come from Harper. There was some good news for Ignatieff as the Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll has him within seven points with the Conservatives at 35 per cent support, ahead of the Liberals at 28 per cent. The NDP was at 17 per cent, while the Bloc Quebecois stood at 10 per cent and the Greens at eight. (spoiler alert: there's excerpted video of an Ignatieff campaign speech at the link, his best line being "How can you trust a man who doesn't respect you?")
Amongst the promises are calls for a permanent home-energy retrofit program, assistance to family caregivers, a community “Heroes Fund” for fallen firefighters and peace officers, and a new Canada Service Corps. There is also a plan to reform Parliament as well by placing new restrictions on Prime Ministerial power to prevent arbitrarily proroguing Parliament for political reasons, and instituting a “People’s Question Period” which will attempt to engage Canadians online. The idea is to have cabinet ministers and the PM to “respond directly to unscripted, user-generated questions.”
A majority of Canadians believe that the Green Party Leader Elizabeth May should have a seat at the federal party leaders debate, a recent poll suggests. Elizabeth May also made news today with a campaign pledge of $450 million for the CBC on the day before party takes broadcasters to court.
Here's Ignatieff's campaign video response to the question, "Who are you?"