As elected officials headed back to Parliament this week after a six-week break, speculation about a spring federal election escalated. The budget, which is expected in March, will likely determine if the minority Conservative government falls.
Conservative Party MP John Weston, who represents West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding said he thinks an election this spring is unnecessary. “It seems the only reason someone wants to provoke an election isn’t for the good of Canadians, but for the self interest of trying to go into government,” he said.
The Conservatives, however, fired the first volley in the latest round of election speculation when they started running attack ads in the middle of January. The Liberals soon followed with their own and the Conservatives countered with two new ads on Thursday, January 27 that were posted on the party’s website. The ads depicted an out-of-context video clip of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff giving a speech to his caucus and suggested he wants a “needless election” and “job-killing taxes.” They went viral within minutes, sparked a heated backlash and were pulled the day after.
Weston said he hasn’t seen any of the attack ads. “If anyone has started the wheels of an election, it’s Mr. Ignatieff,” Weston said. “He’s said time and again recently he wants an election.”
Weston also said that Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) has opened a campaign office. “The Bloc [Quebecois] will do anything to disrupt Canada, because that’s their number one priority,” Weston said. “It strikes me that the three parties in opposition want to provoke an election, but don’t want to be seen to be responsible to do it.”
Dan Veniez, Liberal candidate in the riding, attended the caucus meeting in Ottawa along with 100 other candidates when Ignatieff gave the speech used in the Conservative attack ads. Veniez said he has never seen Ignatieff so energized. When asked about the attack ads, Veniez said, “Ignatieff said it beautifully. We attack problems, not people.”
Rather than talk about issues, Conservatives attack the person, Veniez said. “They try to scratch the ugly underbelly of people’s fears and anxieties, rather than put forward a positive, outward-looking agenda,” he said. “We prefer to try to instill some hope, rather than to appeal to people’s anger or anxieties or fears.”
Veniez also said he thinks there will be an election this spring. “Mr. Ignatieff has said pretty clearly if Mr. Harper continues with the plans on the fighter jets, if he continues with the plans to build prisons we don’t need and if he continues with his plans on corporate tax cuts, that we’re going to oppose the budget.”
Since the Conservatives have a minority government, they need the support of at least one opposition party to avoid an election.
NDP candidate Terry Platt said she agrees with Layton, who is indicating he is open to compromise on the budget. “We are ready for an election, but we would prefer to just keep the government working for Canadians,” she said. “Jack Layton wants to have a really good look at the upcoming budget, see what’s in there for Canadians and see if he can possibly encourage the Harper government to put out some stuff for the average Canadian, not the big corporations.”
Platt, a BC Ferries’ customer service attendant, described herself as the “boring, little candidate whose life story would make a terrific sleep aid for the chronically insomniac.”
She’s a 55-year-old working person, Platt said, who rents in West Vancouver. “I’m running against two shiny men in shiny suits,” she said. “They’re desk people. I’m not a desk person. My clothes are not shiny. I wear a company-given uniform. My clothes come from a consignment store. I have no university education, but I do have the university of work, the university of hard knocks.”
If there is an election, Platt said she has banked overtime which she will use to take time off work to campaign.