Pledges and puffins dominate today's campaign


Globe and Mail Update

September 9, 2008 at 2:31 PM EDT

Image politics threatened to drown out the first policy announcements of the election campaign on Tuesday as the day's events were swooped by a pooping puffin.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper unveiled his first pledge -- to halve federal excises taxes on diesel and aviation fuel within four years – while the Liberal party promised to double the Harper government's $1,200-a-year child care allowance and restore the court challenges program abolished by the Conservatives.

But it was a swooping bird that stole the morning spotlight. An internet ad posted by the Conservatives on Monday night showed a puffin pooping on Mr. Dion, in a nod to former Liberal leadership rival Michael Ignatieff's musings last year about the puffin while on a trip to Newfoundland.

The Conservative party was forced to edit the ad on Tuesday, blaming the clip on an overzealous web designer, as Mr. Harper apologized for its existence, calling it “tasteless and inappropriate.”

Mr. Harper said he didn't know about the web clip before it was posted Monday night. “Belittling images are not fair game,” Mr. Harper said.

The campaign trail was a flurry of activity for Day 3 of the campaign towards the Oct. 14 vote.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hit out early and often against yesterday's decision she be blocked from the televised leaders debate. The party has vowed to file a complaint with the CRTC.

The Greens argue they meet the broadcasting consortium's previously mentioned criteria of having at least one MP now that Independent MP Blair Wilson recently joined the Greens, and said the other parties are running scared.

“Mr. Harper is terrified of facing me face to face on a debate stage,” Ms. May said. “He thinks he can handle the other leaders. He knows where they're coming from. He knows the NDP strategy is more focused on destroying the Liberal Party than taking him on.”

Over at the Liberal camp, Stéphane Dion promised to double the Harper government's $1,200-a-year child care allowance and restore the court challenges program abolished by the Conservatives.

The announcements, which repeat pledges in the Liberal Green Shift plan, counter a new Tory ad that claims Mr. Dion would cancel the taxable, $100-per-month benefit introduced by Mr. Harper.

Mr. Dion also worked to reclaim control of his public image, something the Tories have been working hard to define through their attack ads.

Mr. Dion said he is not a rich man, and that he has discussions with his wife at the end of every month about how to pay the bills.

Canadians have a right to know more about him, he said, because if he becomes prime minister he will affect their daily lives.

But he challenged that characterization of the wonkish professor saying it's "prejudice that an intellectual is not a real human being."

The Conservatives' fuel pledge will likely displease environmentalists, who together with the Liberals say that ratcheting up carbon taxes on fossil fuels is the best way to fight global warming and wean Canada's economy off its dependency on oil.

Today's promise is meant to contrast the Tories with Liberal rival Mr. Dion, whose proposed carbon tax would hike excise taxes on diesel and aviation fuel by 7 cents a litre.

Labelling it a “modest, affordable” response to consumer needs, Mr. Harper said the move would reduce shipping costs for goods, from food to furniture. The levy reduction will cost the federal treasury $600-million.

But the New Democrats pointed out that airlines use aviation fuel, which is taxed separately. NDP Leader Jack Layton said his party does not support reductions in diesel fuel taxes because the money would be better spent cutting the broad costs of transportation.

“What he should have been doing is taking action against these gas guzzling gas companies,” Mr. Layton said of Mr. Harper. “He shouldn't have been giving them across-the-board tax cuts, which he did, and he should have been investing in the solutions which Canadians want to see as well - like public transit, green vehicle manufacturing and so on.”

Mr. Layton also decried the Conservatives-Liberal slanging match, and called for respect to return to politics.

“I think it's childish. I don't think Canadians appreciate that kind of politics,” he said after a breakfast gathering of supporters at a pub in downtown Regina.

“I think it betrays an attitude on the part of the Prime Minister and his team which should concern all Canadians and it's one of the reasons why I am running for Prime Minister – so we can have some respect in politics for a change.”

But Ms. May's charge that her exclusion from the Oct. 1 and 2 leaders debates was disrespectful didn't gain much traction with the New Democrats.

Mr. Layton said it was the television networks that were responsible for preventing her participation.

“The networks have made a decision now. They've decided to use the rules that were used the last time,” he told reporters.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre in the Globe and Mail

Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: Forget the Puffin, watch out for the Kookoobird, its called the No Dads Party who don't believe in equal parenting after separation.