Justin Trudeau and his Conservative rival found rare common ground Tuesday as they both imagined Canada without Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The latter, not surprisingly, painted a familiar scorched-earth portrait of what he believes Canada’s economy would look like in the event anyone but the Conservatives were to win next month’s federal election.
“This, friends, is the world we live in: It is difficult, it is dangerous, it is an unstable global economy,” Harper said during a campaign event in Winnipeg.
“The wrong decisions at the national level on taxes, spending and deficits will cause real economic damage everywhere.”
Should the Tories claim a narrow minority, however, they would have to look past the Liberals for support with Harper at the helm, Trudeau said emphatically.
“I have spent my entire political career fighting against Mr. Harper’s narrow and meaner vision of what Canada can be and the government should do,” the Liberal leader said at an event in Montreal.
“There are no circumstances in which I would support Stephen Harper continuing being prime minister.”
At the same time, Trudeau did not rule out forming some kind of alliance with the New Democrats in the event that no majority government emerges from the Oct. 19 vote.
Harper focused his efforts Tuesday on the core Conservative franchise — the economy — as he set a goal of creating 1.3 million net new jobs by 2020, roughly the same number of new jobs created in the last six years.
“I would say there’s no reason why we can’t have a similar record on that than we have now,” Harper said.
That centrepiece promise was at risk of being overrun Tuesday by a controversy involving a celebrated Canadian icon: Terry Fox.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair urged Harper to apologize for a campaign promise Sunday in which former cabinet minister James Moore said a re-elected Conservative government would match Terry Fox Run donations — and that the measure had the blessing of the Terry Fox Foundation.
The Fox family denied Moore’s claim that it had given its approval.
Harper shrugged off the complaint, saying the party was acting on a request by the foundation itself.
“In August of this year we received a request from the Terry Fox Institute and the Terry Fox Foundation for the kinds of contributions and matching funds we’re setting up,” he said.
“We fulfilled that request; I think it’s a great policy.”
In Moncton, N.B., meanwhile, Mulcair was promising that an NDP government would freeze employment insurance premiums for four years and spend more on training programs and benefits for young Canadians, so-called precarious workers and new parents.
The NDP leader, who has slammed Harper for running deficits and causing huge job losses, also pledged to remove the EI fund from general revenues.
The government should no longer be able to treat the EI fund as a “piggy bank” to be “raided” when extra cash is needed, Mulcair said.
A New Democrat government, he said, would also extend leave for the second parent of a newborn child by five weeks.
The Conservatives have pledged to cut EI premiums by 2017 from the current $1.88 per $100 earned to $1.49, while the Liberals want to cut premiums to $1.65 per $100.
Trudeau also pledged another $380 million for the arts and to reverse $115 million the Conservatives cut from the CBC and boost funding for the public broadcaster.
In Quebec, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said he would support using the constitutional “notwithstanding clause” to fight off any legal directive to allow women to wear niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.
The federal government is currently seeking a stay of a court decision that overturned a ban on facial coverings at citizenship ceremonies.
And in an open letter released Tuesday, Green party Leader Elizabeth May urged the federal government to stop giving the private banking information of dual Canadian-American citizens to the U.S. to comply with laws south of the border.
May called it an unacceptable breach of privacy and an attack on citizenship, sovereignty, and access to justice.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press, The Canadian Press