KITCHENER, Ont. — At a Markham, Ont., pumpkin patch Sunday, Stephen Harper cracked a joke: was he supposed to pick the orange gourd at his feet or the one painted a bright Conservative blue?
Some recent polls suggest that for most voters in the Toronto suburbs and southwestern Ontario, where Harper heads Monday, the choice isn’t orange or blue but blue or red.
And the fact Harper’s fight lies with the Liberals was made clear at Whittamore’s farm on Sunday when a crowd of people standing on a trailer, upon realizing they’d just missed the Harper family, started chanting not his but Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s name.
Harper wasn’t in earshot but he’s not deaf to the noise being generated by the Liberal campaign as it appears to pick up momentum, especially in Ontario.
So the Conservative campaign goal this week is to halt that growth in its tracks, especially when those tracks look like they’re heading right into Conservative ridings, as Harper’s schedule in the early part of this week suggests they are.
Harper hit the pumpkin patch with local candidate Paul Calandra, whose position as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister has seen him speaking on behalf of Harper in the House of Commons on many uncomfortable subjects including the Senate expense scandal.
Earlier in the day, Harper had been at a fall fair in Woodbridge, Ont., joining his cabinet minister Julian Fantino to shore up support there. Harper had made an announcement in Fantino’s riding two weeks ago.
And his final event of the day was a visit to a seniors’ home in the riding of Richmond Hill, held by Costas Menegakis. Harper was in the riding last week and the week before that.
Where he’s headed Monday is also Tory territory — in the Waterloo region, there are five ridings, one brand new and the others rijigs of existing districts. There are incumbent Conservatives in all four of the existing ridings.
Two of the incumbents being billed alongside Harper for Monday morning’s event come from the socially-conservative wing of the party — Stephen Woodworth and Harold Albrecht.
Both have been active in anti-abortion campaigns and Woodworth has tried unsuccessfully to have the issue studied in the House of Commons. Both also reacted with alarm earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled there has to be a law in Canada allowing for physician-assisted suicide; the divisive issue is going to be among the first a new government must deal with after the Oct. 19 vote.
At the pumpkin patch, Harper’s son Ben ended up picking up the blue pumpkin, leaving his father to take the orange.
But on Monday, expect Harper to keep talking a blue streak about the Liberals — focusing on the peril of casting a ballot for that party, a message Harper embedded even in his Thanksgiving news release, extending Canadians holiday greetings and then:
“The Conservative Party has a practical, affordable plan to keep taxes low and create new, well-paying jobs,” he said.
“The Liberals have promised a high-tax, high-debt agenda that has failed in other countries around the world and will wreck our economy here at home.”
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Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press