Harper calls three byelections while posting $500M deficit
Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sending voters in three ridings to the polls in early September amid renewed speculation about a fall election and reports the federal government was in deficit for the first part of the year -- a rare departure from the billion-dollar surpluses that have been the norm.
Harper announced the Sept. 8 byelection dates for the ridings -- two in Quebec and one in Ontario -- without further comment Friday.
But the parties see the byelections as an opportunity to take their potential general election campaign themes -- leadership, environment, the economy and crime -- for a test run.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion asserted Friday voters in the ridings will use the opportunity to send Harper "a strong message that they don't like the way he is running the country."
Conservatives say that since two of the ridings were held by the Liberals, the contest is about Dion's leadership, which the Tories have attacked as weak since Dion succeeded Paul Martin in late 2006. St-Lambert was held by the Bloc Quebecois.
Meanwhile, the Finance Department disclosed in its monthly fiscal monitor Friday that Ottawa had recorded a $500-million deficit for the first two months of the 2008-09 fiscal year -- a stunning contrast to the $2.8-billion surplus it posted for the same period a year ago.
The department attributed the results to a drop in revenue from corporate taxes and the GST, and a seven per cent increase in spending.