Harper: Choose PM, not a drinking buddy
Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Brampton, Ontario April 29, 2011. Canadians will head to the polls in a federal election on May 2. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
WINDSOR, N.S. - Conservative Leader Stephen Harper admitted Saturday that Canadians would probably rather drink a beer with NDP Leader Jack Layton.
Indeed, a QMI Agency poll earlier in the campaign also found Canadians would choose Layton first to coach their kids' hockey team or be their neighbour.
But in an exclusive interview with QMI Agency here Saturday, Harper warned managing the fragile economy isn't a drinking game.
"This isn't about picking a guy you want to have a beer with," Harper said. "This is about picking the economic direction of this country.
"This is the big choice: A serious economic program versus, frankly, a program that any other country would view as disastrous and would be disastrous for this country."
With only a day left in the campaign and in the wake of the orange surge, Harper has been ramping up his attack of the NDP platform, which promises $69 billion in new spending over four years.
The NDP plans to raise more than $70 billion in revenues to pay for it, but Harper said their funding model is from "fairy land" and has "no economic credibility whatsoever."
When asked what Harper would do with the majority he's gunning for, he said the direction of the country would not change. Instead, he said it would offer stability not only for voters, but the economy as well.
"I think the difference with a majority is that the country can focus a bit on the longer term instead of on the Parliamentary manoeuvring," he said.
"Look at the issues that were dominating Parliament before this election. They have almost nothing to do with anything that anybody cares about in this campaign.
"I think it (a majority) is not just what we need, I actually think it's what the country needs," he added, saying he's learned a lot about how to be flexible running the longest minority government in Canadian history.
"But at the same time, I think we've come to a limit of how far the country can really progress if the dynamics of minorities keep continuing. We have election after election. Sooner or later something is going to go very, very wrong, and I think we're that close to it."
The Conservative platform plans to squeeze $4 billion in annual savings from the federal bureaucracy, which critics say is an unachievable amount.
Also, some voters have been slow to warm to Harper, who has been dogged his entire political career by fears he has a hidden socially conservative agenda.
Now though, he said the opposite is true. The Conservatives are the tried and true, and the other parties pose the threat of the unknown, Harper said.
"I'm not sure they know entirely what they would do, but we do know broadly that they will raise spending enormously, raise taxes and we know where that leads our economy. It leads us from leading the global recession to falling behind very quickly," Harper said.
Repeatedly, Harper warned his supporters that Monday's election -- the country's fourth in seven years -- is going to be close. The surprising NDP surge, which has the party in second place in most national polls, has made it more difficult to predict the outcome, he said.
"I tell people in all our ridings, you can not be confident or overconfident. You've got to work hard, work hard to the last minute and get that vote out, and make people understand the stakes here," Harper said.