Windsor Star

Tories take aim at NDP, Greens

In slam at Liberals, Conservati­ves say their greatest threat comes from other two parties

- BY MIKE BLANCHFIEL­D AND MIKE DE SOUZA CANWEST NEWS SERVICE OTTAWA

The Conservati­ves said Sunday they are refocusing their primary aim on the NDP and the Green party, citing them as a bigger threat to their re-election than the Liberals.

The Tories explained their dramatic shift in strategy, coming as the second week of the federal election begins, as being due to NDP Leader Jack Layton’s rising popularity over that of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s main target last week.

But the Conservati­ves also said that the NDP and Green party are making significan­t inroads, not only in British Columbia and parts of the Prairies but in northern and southweste­rn Ontario.

“They’re beginning to challenge the Liberals as our primary opponent in a number of key areas,” a senior Conservati­ve campaign source said Sunday. “Not just during the campaign but in the lead-up to the campaign, the NDP has played the role of the principal opposition to the government while the Liberals were abstaining from votes and retreated in a number of issues, the NDP were standing firm and opposing the government vigorously.”

An Ipsos-Reid poll for Canwest News Service and Global National just before the election call showed Layton as Canadians’ second choice for prime minister behind Harper, with Dion a distant third.

The Tory strategy shift came as Dion attempted to close a widening gap with the Conservati­ves by trying to capitalize on Newfoundla­nd Premier Danny Williams’ animosity toward Harper. Most polls show the Conservati­ves pulling ahead of the Liberals, but Ipsos-Reid polling has shown the Conservati­ves have yet to make significan­t gains in Ontario and Quebec.

Dion flew to St. John’s, N.L. Sunday where he planned to campaign Monday following Williams’ stinging rebuke in which he said a potential Harper majority “would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history.”

As Harper rested Sunday, the Conservati­ves unveiled a new television advertisem­ent that attacked the Bloc Quebecois and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe shot back by saying on Sunday that his party could do the entire country a favour by preventing the Conservati­ves from forming a majority government.

Campaignin­g in Montreal, Duceppe called on Quebecers of all political stripes to vote for the Bloc, arguing his party is better positioned than the NDP, Liberals or Green party to thwart the Conservati­ves.

After crossing the country in the first week of the campaign, the Tories planned to focus on Ontario and Quebec this week, the main battlegrou­nds where they must make inroads to either build a stronger minority or win a majority.

Harper planned to roll out a series of “practical” announceme­nts that would benefit working families, in an attempt to portray the NDP as “offside with working families,” said the Conservati­ve official, but they would not include any proposals to address rising gas prices.

In Gatineau, Que. Sunday, Layton dismissed the notion that voting Liberal is the best way to stop the Conservati­ves.

“Forty-three different times over the last year there was an opportunit­y (in Parliament) for a Liberal vote to be exercised to stop the Harper agenda, and it wasn’t exercised,” Layton said.

He accused previous Liberal and Conservati­ve government­s of creating similar hardships for many Canadian families and widening the gap between the rich and the less fortunate.

“I think that Canadians are preparing themselves to make a change, as I’ve said often, not just from the past 25 months, but from the past 25 years because the situation their families find themselves in today wasn’t just created in the last couple of years,” Layton said.

Calling Harper’s record on women’s issues “disastrous,” Layton pledged to restore $5 million in cuts made by the Conservati­ve government to programs supporting gender equality, and invest an additional $120 million per year to address the issue.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May said Sunday that while she shared some of Dion’s views on his proposed carbon tax, she had no intention of joining forces with the Liberals, as she dismissed the suggestion that her party’s rising popularity would split the vote on the political left and give the Conservati­ves a majority.

“I’m not interested in helping Mr. Dion explain Liberal policy,” May said.

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 ?? Reuters photo: Chris Wattie ?? PLAYING A SONG: Conservati­ve Leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays the piano at the airport in St. John’s, N.L. on Sunday.
Reuters photo: Chris Wattie PLAYING A SONG: Conservati­ve Leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays the piano at the airport in St. John’s, N.L. on Sunday.

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