OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is literally putting cash on the table in an effort to halt the momentum of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the closing days of the federal election campaign.
With less than a week until Canadians go to the polls next Monday, the Conservatives have twice staged low-tech stunts designed to illustrate how much they say Liberal tax changes will cost voters as Harper attempts to pick apart the Liberal platform.
Harper played the role of game show host again Tuesday morning at a partisan rally in west-end Toronto, calling out Liberal tax increases as a pizza store owner placed bills on a table to the backdrop of a loudly ringing cash register.
“The tax hikes the Liberals talk about, they are not just numbers in a pamphlet,” said the prime minister, without jacket or tie and with his blue shirt sleeves rolled up. “They are real dollars and I want to show you again today what the payroll tax hikes look like.”
Conservative party videographers took tight shots as the pizza store owner laid bills on a table to repeated “Ka-Chings!”
“Hand it over, Dino,” Harper coached. “I hope you counted that carefully.”
The Conservatives staged a similar display on the Thanksgiving weekend and the stunt appears destined for party advertising in the closing days of this extraordinary 78-day campaign, the longest in modern Canadian history.
All three major party leaders were in the Greater Toronto Area on Tuesday morning as polls continue to suggest an electorate in flux and swathes of seat-rich Ontario up for grabs.
Trudeau ventured into an NDP-held riding in Toronto to make the pitch that the Liberal platform is the most progressive on offer in this election. The Liberal pitch came a day after the party launched an open appeal to former Progressive Conservatives to join their fold.
Trudeau appears to be trying to peel off voters from both the New Democrats and Tories, while hoping to win over strategic voters who might see an incumbent NDP MP as the best vehicle for removing Harper’s Conservatives from office.
“You do have a choice — multiple choices,” Trudeau said. “I won’t pretend that you don’t.
“To suggest otherwise would be arrogant and an insult to your intelligence, so I’m not asking you to look at the polls. I’m asking you to look at our platform.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, framed by a crowd of partisans waving orange “STOP HARPER” signs, spoke to a rally in Oshawa, Ont., just east of Toronto. He continued to maintain that New Democrats are only a few dozen seats short of unseating the Conservatives — notwithstanding that every party starts with zero seats when Parliament is dissolved and a new general election campaign begins.
“Mr. Trudeau in this campaign has spent more time going after the NDP than he’s spent going after Stephen Harper,” Mulcair charged. “I challenge Mr. Trudeau to start taking on Stephen Harper.”
Harper is visiting the highly-symbolic Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, where former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat in the 2011 campaign en route to the worst Liberal electoral drubbing in party history.
Etobicoke is also Ford country, as in the well-known Toronto city councillors Rob and Doug Ford, both of whom were in attendance for Harper’s morning rally.
Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press