Harper pitches his Conservatives as best hope for national unity
HUNTSVILLE, Ont. (CP) - Stephen Harper says his Conservatives are Canada's best hope for national unity.
Re-electing a Liberal government would play into the hands of sovereigntists in Quebec, who are thriving because of anger over sponsorship corruption, Harper said Saturday during a campaign stop in Ontario cottage country.
"Every vote for the Liberal party - in Quebec or particularly outside of Quebec - quite frankly drives votes to the Bloc Quebecois," Harper told a news conference.
"Every vote for the Conservative party is pulling people from the Bloc Quebecois, and pulling people towards a new government that can unite the country and break down the polarization of the debate in Quebec."
Earlier, in delivering his stump speech to a partisan crowd in Huntsville, about 230 kilometres north of Toronto, Harper made a rare move for a national leader: he didn't utter a single word in French, to the chagrin of members of the francophone media.
Harper, who like most other leaders generally speaks a few lines of French no matter where he is, later explained that he was speaking to an English audience. He said another speech later Saturday would include some French.
"It was a crowd in a very anglophone community," he said of the speech, promising a different approach later in the day when he was to speak in the northern Ontario town of North Bay.
"It's different in North Bay, and I will deliver a different speech in North Bay," he said. "I try to match my speeches to the crowd."
Whenever Harper delivers a policy announcement, as opposed to a speech, he's careful to speak both official languages, Tory officials later noted.
The Conservatives took issue last month with what they considered an affront to bilingualism on the Liberal website, complaining about a popular campaign blog by Liberal speech writer Scott Feschuk that's only available in English.
A French blog, written anonymously, began appearing a few days later.
As for his strong showing in polls that continue to suggest he's on track to win next week's election, Harper said he's taking things one step at a time. He said he hasn't even started discussing cabinet jobs with Tory candidates.
"I have not sat down and had a discussion with anybody on that subject yet," he said.
"I haven't even discussed it with my wife yet. Those are decisions we will address only if the people of Canada give us a mandate."
ŠThe Canadian Press, 2006