Layton touts NDP as federalist option in Quebec
Published Monday, April 18, 2011 10:46PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:31AM EDT
NDP Leader Jack Layton promised Wednesday to fund a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Quebec City, even as he accused his opponents of fanning the flames of national discord during his latest campaign swing through Quebec.
Layton, continuing his efforts to capitalize on a recent upswing of support for the NDP in la belle province, told reporters in Quebec City Monday morning, that an NDP government would also devote resources to green infrastructure, affordable housing and upgrading water treatment plants nationwide.
In addition, the NDP would devote at least $70 million to urban transit initiatives, he said.
The idea of a high-speed rail line linking Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, has been in consideration for decades, but has yet to muster enough support to come to fruition.
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume renewed attention on the proposal last week, when he called on the federal leaders to pony up. So far, only Layton has answered the call, unlike Prime Minister Stephen Harper who during his own stop in Quebec City last week said the matter would be better put to discussion after the election.
Besides his promise for the rail link, however, Layton used his appearance in the Quebec capital to focus on establishing his party as a legitimate option for federalist votes in the province.
Meanwhile, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe warned Quebecers from voting NDP, after recent polls showed the party's popularity rising in the province.
Heading into the election, the NDP held just one seat in Quebec. And while the Bloc still holds a commanding lead there, the latest national poll results show Layton's party at 23 per cent support. That's not only almost double the support registered ahead of the last federal election, it's also ahead of the Liberals and Conservatives, both of which have traditionally divided the province's federalist vote between them.
Duceppe said voting Bloc is the only way to prevent a Conservative majority.
The Bloc leader renewed talk of a vote on separation over the weekend, after Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois won a strong vote of confidence from her party.
Duceppe's suggestion that a resurgent PQ in Quebec and a strong Bloc presence in Ottawa would renew the conditions for a separatist debate spurred Harper to suggest a Conservative majority is the only way around it.
Talking to reporters at the provincial capital's city hall Monday morning, Layton said his party would adopt a different approach to Quebec compared with his rivals.
"We need an approach that is built on trying to respect Quebec, to reach out, to work on some of the key issues here," Layton said.
"What I'm hearing from Mr. Duceppe on one hand and Mr. Harper on the other, is the fuelling of flames of discord," he added, decrying the "same old, same old" divisive approach.
"I think creating the winning conditions for Canada in Quebec is the way to move forward," he said, suggesting that an NDP government would work to pull the country together, "not drive wedges in the middle of an election campaign."
To that end, Layton directed a message to his rivals.
"I say to these other leaders, let's not use an election to try to whip up division between Canadians and between Canadians and Quebecers. Let's use an election to talk about solutions about how we can come together. That's my approach."
Layton said he's optimistic voters in Quebec want change, and aren't afraid to vote for it.
"They are seeking an alternative and they are turning to us," he said, suggesting voters in B.C. are similarly amenable to taking a chance on a federal party other than the Liberals or Conservatives.
While Layton focuses on boosting his party's fortunes in Quebec -- heading later in the day to Val D'or to support NDP candidate Romeo Saganash in his bid to win the east Montreal riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou -- Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff are entering the final two weeks of the campaign focused on snatching another riding from the New Democrats.
Following their last few days spent crossing paths on the hustings across British Columbia, both Harper and Ignatieff are in Canada's North, where they are both lending support to candidates vying to knock NDP MP Dennis Bevington from the riding of Western Arctic in the Northwest Territories.
Harper starts the day backing his party's candidate there, former territorial health minister Sandy Lee, at an appearance in Yellowknife, North West Territories, before he heads to Thunder Bay, Ontario for a rally Monday night.
Continuing his campaign as the front-runner, expect Harper to stick with the theme he has developed in recent days -- that a vote against the Conservatives is a vote for an uncertain economic and political future under a Liberal minority bolstered by the NDP and the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois.
Likely trumpeting his warnings that a Tory majority threatens the future of public health care in Canada, Ignatieff will make his own stop in Yellowknife hot on the heels of his Tory rival. Before attending a barbeque lunch in the NWT capital, however, Ignatieff is holding his daily press conference at the Det'on Cho Training Centre in Dettah, NWT Monday morning. Afterwards, Ignatieff leaves NWT for Winnipeg, Manitoba.
National polls continue to show Harper with a lead over his rivals, but not enough to necessarily score the majority he has been campaigning for. In that light, the Tories have made little secret of their focus on a handful of key ridings they believe could turn the tide on election night.
The Conservatives need to add just 12 seats to the 143 they held before the writ dropped in order to form a majority. With that in mind, the Tories have 30 key opposition-held ridings in their sights -- predominantly centred in the greater Vancouver and Toronto areas, but also including the northern ridings of Western Arctic and Nunavut.
That's why both the Conservative and Liberal campaign buses are swinging through the NWT today, targeting the riding held by two-time NDP MP Dennis Bevington who broke the Liberal stranglehold on Canada's three northernmost ridings in 2006 with a squeaker of a win over the Tory runner-up.
The Liberals have managed to hang on to the Yukon since 2000, but took the riding by a mere 70 votes in the last election. The Conservatives have held Nunavut since Leona Aglukkaq, who served as health minister in Harper's last cabinet, narrowly won the seat in 2008, virtually splitting the vote with the Liberal and NDP candidates.
Layton, who took a high-profile dog-sledding trip with Bevington ahead of the last election, has not yet announced any plans to take his campaign to the Far North this time round.
Duceppe planned to focus on his party's arts and culture priorities during a day of campaigning in the Montreal area.
After starting her day with an early-morning rally in Kamloops, B.C., Green Party Leader boards a train for Edmonton, Alberta where she will be joined by former Oiler Georges Laraque at an "Eco-ball" event Monday night. Along the way, however, May planned whistle-stop rallies in Valemont, B.C. and Jasper, Alberta.
With files from The Canadian Press