Harper urges voters to avoid ‘risk’ of NDP or Liberals in power
CALGARY— Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning voters that a victory by the New Democrats or Liberals in this fall’s election would bring European-style economic calamity to this country and open the door to an increased security threat from jihadist terrorists.
In a highly partisan speech delivered Saturday evening to supporters at a Conservative barbecue, Harper predicted voters will opt to return his party to power with another majority.
“I’m confident that this October, Canadians will choose security over risk.”
But with no guarantees in politics, Harper also unveiled some of the key themes he will bring on the road to persuade voters in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 19 election.
In particular, he spent much of his time portraying his party as the only one seeking votes that is truly prepared to protect Canadians from terrorists.
“As we were brutally reminded last October, Canada is not immune to the threat of jihadist terrorism,” Harper said in reference to the attack by a lone gunman on Parliament Hill.
Harper blasted the Liberals and NDP for opposing Canada’s aerial combat mission against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and for their positions on Bill C-51, which provides more powers to security agencies and the police.
He said Tom Mulcair’s NDP has an “ideological aversion” to making decisions on whether to send the military into combat, and that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau only backed C-51 for electoral reasons and will “gut” the law if elected.
“These guys just don’t get it,” said Harper. “We’re living in a dangerous world. We have a responsibility to act, to lead, to protect.
“Our government will stay the course, because that is what is in Canada’s best interest.
“When the most despicable people in the world brag about their mass murders, when they threaten to carry out further attacks against Canadians, we will not back down, we will not weaken our law enforcement agencies, we will not pull our troops out of the fight.”
Instead, said Harper, a re-elected government led by the Conservatives “will meet these jihadist threats with vigilance, with resolve and with determined action.”
Harper said Canadians are “rightly proud” of Canada’s participation in an international coalition to send military aircraft to the Middle East to drop bombs on ISIL targets.
“Sending people on such a mission is a tough decision, but these are the decisions a government has to make,” he said.
“Our (NDP and Liberal) opponents can’t take such decisions.”
Harper delivered his speech at the start of a long summer of political jockeying between him and his political rivals.
The unofficial campaign began in recent days as Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau came to Calgary for the annual Stampede and to press the flesh with voters.
Mulcair and Trudeau both criticized Harper’s economic record, saying he has failed to produce policies that promote the manufacturing sector and also ensure there is a balance between extraction of natural resources and environmental protection.
Before Harper even delivered his speech, they were striking back at his approach to security.
“We also believe that it’s important to protect the country from terrorist attacks,” said Mulcair.
“Mr. Harper says we can’t do that without compromising our rights and freedoms. It’s not either or. You have to do both.”
Trudeau, who visited an Islamic prayer centre, said he wants to ensure Canada is not marred by “divisive” rhetoric from political leaders.
“I demonstrate every step of the way, every day that I’m politicking, that I’m about pulling people together — not about highlighting fears or insecurities.”
Harper, who is seeking a fourth mandate, said his Conservative government has delivered on its promises in areas such as tax cuts for families and for Canadians saving for retirement.
He said the Tories have a proud record on the economy, and of taking stands in the world, “confronting evil and danger where it is found (and) keeping us safe here at home.”
He urged Canadians to remember that “choices matter” and that the decision they make in the voting booth will be very important.
“It is a choice that will have real consequences for our country’s place in the world, real consequences for every Canadian and every Canadian family.
“It is a clear choice, indeed, a stark choice, and, my friends, for our economy, for our security, for our country.”
Public opinion polls show the NDP is in first place, though pollsters also caution it’s far too soon to pick a winner in the election.
The sagging economy has suddenly become a campaign issue, with the possibility that, by the end of the summer, new GDP figures will show the country is in recession.
But Harper’s speech Saturday revealed he still plans to use a tactic that helped him win the 2011 election: claiming he is the country’s best economic manager amid international instability.
Harper warned his audience that a government led by either the NDP or Liberals would raise “payroll taxes” for the CPP and EI.
He also claimed his rivals would “reverse our cut to the GST” by bringing in “some form of carbon tax.”
“Even after they do all that, their enormous promises to special interests groups mean they will run large and spiralling deficits,” said Harper.
“We’ve come too far to take risks with reckless policies.
“We can look around the world, look at some European countries, to see where Liberal and NDP policies would take us.”
Harper was apparently referring to the political crisis unfolding in debt-ridden Greece, where people vote in a referendum Sunday on whether to accept a bailout with more austerity conditions or to leave the euro zone.
The prime minister acknowledged that with plummeting oil prices in recent months, “these are not the best of times for the Alberta economy.”
But he urged patience.
“We have seen a lot worse before, and this province has always bounced back. And let me assure you that with that Alberta can-do attitude and a national government that is on our side, this province will come back stronger than ever.”