Harper vows to scrap per-vote subsidies
Published Friday, April 1, 2011 9:09PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:21AM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday he'd still like to overhaul the party subsidy system, while Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced a pledge for a family care plan and NDP Leader Jack Layton promised to increase the number of doctors and nurses in Canada.
During a campaign stop in Dieppe, N.B., Harper said he still wants to eliminate the current per-vote subsidy system -- but would only try to bring in changes if he forms a majority government.
Currently, political parties receive a $2-per-vote subsidy, but Harper has long opposed the system, which was brought in by the Liberals when corporate and union donations were banned.
He said Friday that political parties already enjoy "enormous tax advantages" and taxpayers should not have to support parties they don't support with their votes. Harper added that the subsidy only helps to ease the way for frequent elections.
"This enormous cheque that keeps piling into parties ever month whether they raise any money or not that means we're constantly having campaigns, the war chests are always full for another campaign," he said.
"You lose one, immediately in come the cheques, you're ready for the next one even if you didn't raise a dime."
The last time Harper's party tried to scrap the subsidy system, following the 2008 election, the three opposition parties revolted and threatened to create a parliamentary alliance to replace the Conservatives.
The prime minister promised the change would happen slowly.
"We're estimating a three-year transition, we'll talk to the other parties about the best way to do it," Harper said.
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe accused Harper of trying to hobble smaller parties like his, saying the move would "run against democracy."
"Parties trying to break through, like the Greens, would have practically no means. That guy would be happy with no opposition and no Parliament," he said in Quebec City.
Also in Dieppe, Harper said his party still plans to implement several initiatives introduced in the federal budget, including extending a job-sharing program designed to reduce layoffs, as well as a program that aims to help older workers find new jobs.
"The top priority for our government, is protecting and creating Canadian jobs, Harper said Friday morning, adding that his opponents have offered "precious little" on job creation and protection.
"Their focus is large-scale, expensive spending schemes, paid for, inevitably, by raising taxes," he said.
Harper will remain in the Maritimes for the rest of the day, travelling to Prince Edward Island on Friday afternoon.
NDP, Liberals talk health care, family care
NDP Leader Jack Layton told an audience in Sudbury, Ont., that a New Democrat government would spend $165 million to increase the number of doctors and nurses in Canada. He said his government would aim to recruit and train more new medical professionals, something the Harper government has failed to do, he said.
"Far too many Canadians are not able to get the health care they need, when they need it," Layton said.
"Five years ago, Stephen Harper said he'd make your health care a top priority. But for five years, he's failed to act."
Layton promised the NDP would add 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses over a 10-year period, and would aim to repatriate 300 Canadian doctors living abroad.
The NDP would also forgive the student debt of anyone willing to practise as a family doctor for 10 years.
Further south, in the city of London, Ont. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced a pledge for a $1-billion "family care" plan that the party estimates could help 630,000 family caregivers a year.
The plan would create an EI benefit that would allow Canadians take up to six months off from work to look after a sick family member, as well as a tax benefit that targets low- and middle-income caregivers looking after a family member.
Ignatieff noted that about 40 per cent of people who take time off work to care for relatives have to dig into their savings to get by.
He said the issue is deeply personal for him.
"As some of you know, my mom got Alzheimer's disease when she was in her early 60s. It was a devastating blow to the family. She was the kind of anchor and centre of our family," Ignatieff said.
"My dad then stepped up in retirement to look after her. He didn't want to send her into a home, so we looked after her in the home."
Ignatieff also fired back at Harper for what he called personal attacks against his family in a recent Tory memo.
"There are certain things that are off-limits to me," he said. "I don't attack his patriotism. I don't attack his family. He's attacked my patriotism, he's attacked my family."
The Conservatives' memo recently questioned Ignatieff's story of how his father came to Canada as an immigrant.
"The family stuff cuts deep," Ignatieff said. "It was my dad who looked after my mom at home. And he (Harper) allowed his party to attack my father, who served this country for 30 years as a public servant and was a proud Canadian."
With files from The Canadian Press