Sunday, May 15, 2005

 

Loyalty to Grits will kill Canada: Harper

DRUMMONDVILLE May 15 (Montreal Gazette) – While one of his candidates proposed bringing Canada back to 1867, Conservative leader Stephen Harper warned anglophones that they would wreck the country if they remained loyal to the federal Liberals.
“I say this particularly to English Quebecers and Ontarians – a few people I know who are still reluctant to let go of the Liberal party – I say this to them, and I say it very seriously,” Harper told reporters yesterday.
“If these loyal Canadians care about the unity of the country, they will not put in office a party that Quebecers know is corrupt, and to do that is to jeopardize the future of this country.”
The surge in support for sovereignty is another sign that the federal Liberals are finished in the province, said Harper, who was in central Quebec to address a crowd of 59 Conservative candidates at a training session.
“The support for sovereignty is a reflection of how serious the Liberal scandals really are,” Harper said, referring to recent polls that show 54 per cent of Quebecers support independence.
“Let’s be clear, (Bloc Québécois leader) Gilles Duceppe has not created a whole bunch more sovereignists in Quebec. It’s (former prime minister) Jean Chrétien and (Prime Minister) Paul Martin who have created them. And I think it’s essential for national unity to get the Liberals out of office, and I think that’s the only way we’re going to turn things around.”
He told candidates to prepare for a nasty election campaign in which Conservatives would be portrayed as extremists, fundamentalists and separatists. But he said Canadians might have a bigger fear when they go to the polls.
“They’re a lot more afraid, I think, of wrecking the country, and that’s what a Liberal government will do.”
One day after a meeting with Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benoît Pelletier, Harper renewed his pledge to deliver a federalism of openness.
He said he would work within the framework of the constitution and avoid national programs out of Ottawa, proposed by the Liberals and the NDP, which infringe on provincial jurisdictions.
“Obviously, our ultimate goal is to make Quebec more comfortable within Canada, not simply to make Quebec more powerful or more independent. I think that wouldn’t be the whole answer.”
But Conservative candidate Gary Caldwell was a little more blunt, insisting that the confederation won’t survive without a strong Quebec.
“We’re offering 1867,” said Caldwell, who will run in the Eastern Townships riding of Compton-Standstead for a second straight year.
“That means a chance for Quebec to survive as Louisiana did not survive in the American Union.” He said the federal government took over provincial jurisdictions and taxing powers during the Second World War, before weakening the confederation even more with the 1982 Constitution.
“This has led to alienation in western Canada, and it has led to a sense in Quebec, that we cannot build our future within the confederation.” While the Conservatives have pledged to restore balance in federal-provincial transfers to decentralize Ottawa, they are not ready to say how much money they are willing to turn over to the provinces.
“It’s certain that we must sit down with the leaders of the provinces concerned to establish the amounts,” Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, Josée Verner, said.
But Harper insisted his party won’t go down the same road as the Liberals if they win the next election.
“We Conservatives will never come here to the province of Quebec – we will never come to this proud province, attempt to buy elections with dirty money, and call it national unit,” Harper said.
The Conservatives expect to have a full roster of candidates in all 75 Quebec ridings by the end of the week.

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