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ELECTION 2011: Council says CETA talks should not take place during election

Day 3: On the third day of this federal election, the Council of Canadians is signaling that Canada-European Union free trade negotiations should not take place two weeks from now, given the election, the magnitude of the deal being proposed, and the absence of a parliamentary mandate. The Conservatives are seeking to campaign on ‘the threat of the coalition’, but it seems that Harper sought his own coalition in 2004 and that voters want to hear about health care and substantive policy issues.

THE COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: Today the Council of Canadians said, “A seventh round of Canada-European Union free trade negotiations, set for April 11-15 in Ottawa, should be put on hold until a new federal government has been elected.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow said, “Common sense tells us you shouldn’t be allowed to make major policy decisions during an election that would bind future governments. But this is exactly what would happen if the Canada-EU free trade talks are allowed to proceed as planned.” Last week the Toronto Star reported that Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council under prime ministers Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper, said, “You do minimalist government—you do only what’s necessary (during an election). Do not do anything that would give you political advantage by virtue of being the government and do not make commitments that will constrain the government that is eventually elected.” The Council of Canadians argues this ‘caretaker’ and ‘minimalist’ role extends to CETA and that negotiations on this landmark deal – said to be larger in scope than NAFTA – should not take place during the federal election as currently planned.
HARPER TO FOCUS ON COALITION: The Globe and Mail reports, “Stephen Harper’s loud warning that voters must choose between a majority Conservative government and a ‘reckless’ Liberal-led coalition reveals a strategy he personally conceived and is determined to emphasize throughout this election campaign. …The Conservatives hope the coalition question will develop into a much-coveted ‘wedge’ issue – a debate that polarizes support into two camps, with one party on one side and all the other parties together on the other.” That’s at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/reckless-coalition-strategy-is-harpers-own/article1959311/.
HARPER’S COALITION: The Toronto Star reports, “Stephen Harper’s bid to stoke election fears about a Liberal-led coalition has been undermined by words from his political past when he joined other opposition leaders in urging the then-governor general to consider ‘all of your options’. Harper was forced to fend off questions about his own ‘close consultations’ in 2004 with opposition leaders in the event that Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government faltered. Harper denied Sunday he was being a hypocrite for appearing to embrace close collaboration among the opposition parties in 2004 only to campaign against the idea now. …Harper signed a letter in August 2004 with Layton and Duceppe to then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson urging her to consult with them first if Martin requested dissolution of the Commons and an election.” More at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/962423–harper-s-coalition-attacks-come-back-to-haunt-him?bn=1. Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe adds, “Harper’s volleys against the coalition rang hollow for many in the face of reminders from Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe that, in 2004, it was Conservatives pushing for exactly such an arrangement. Of course, the Harper team now insists their leader’s 2004 effort was not about a coalition but rather reflected ‘a cooperative effort.’ Figure that one out. …The electorate won’t be keen on listening to five weeks of bickering over whether Liberals and New Democrats secretly intend to form a coalition, especially given Ignatieff’s flat-out declaration Saturday that this isn’t on his to-do list.” That’s at http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Election+turns+getting+vote+Tories+motivated/4513693/story.html.
THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: CBC reports, “Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, 24, was killed Sunday (in Afghanistan) while on foot patrol…. Scherrer is the 155th member of the Canadian Forces to die serving in the Afghanistan mission since 2002.” That’s at http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/03/27/afghanistan-soldier.html. An April 2010 EKOS poll found that 60 percent of Canadians do not support extending Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan past July 2011, as agreed to by the Conservatives and Liberals. The war is estimated to have cost $18 billion. The Harper government has been severely criticized by the veteran’s ombudsman Pat Stogran for is poor treatment of injured veterans, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4371.
F-35 CANDIDATE: The Toronto Star reports, “A Conservative candidate (Raymond Sturgeon) in Ontario (Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing) lobbied for a firm (Ottawa-based CFN consultants) that is selling Canada a fleet of controversial fighter jets (F-35s) whose disputed cost (the Conservatives say $16 billion, the parliamentary budget officer $29.3 billion) helped spark the election…” He is trying to unseat NDP MP Carol Hughes. More at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/962525–tory-candidate-lobbied-for-firm-selling-f-35-jets?bn=1.
WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: Stephen Harper will be in Saanich-Gulf Islands this morning (the seat Elizabeth May is seeking to take from a Conservative MP), then Beaumont, Alberta this afternoon. Michael Ignatieff will be in Toronto and Mississauga. Jack Layton will be in Regina and Moose Jaw. Gilles Duceppe will be in the suburbs around Montreal. Elizabeth May will be in Sidney, BC (Saanich-Gulf Islands).

TODAY’S POLL: The Vancouver Sun reports, “The first poll since Saturday’s election call shows Tory support largely unchanged, calling into question the opposition’s early emphasis on ethics. Despite a weekend of being hammered for their alleged contempt of Parliament, (the Forum Research poll shows) the Conservatives boast the support of 41 per cent of decided voters — 17 points ahead of the Liberals, who are at 24 per cent. The NDP is at 19 per cent, and the Bloc 10 per cent. That’s at http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tory+support+stays+high+ethics+falling+flat+Poll/4514126/story.html.
SEAT PROJECTIONS: 155 seats are needed to form a majority government, and the Forum Research poll shows the Conservatives are within reach of that. The Vancouver Sun reports, “The Forum Research poll also breaks it down by seat count, suggesting that if the election were held today, the Tories would surge from 143 seats to 162 seats, the Liberals would drop 17 seats to 61, the Bloc would rise from 44 to 51, and the NDP would be whittled from 36 seats to 34. The poll, conducted over the weekend via telephone with a random sample of 2,095 voters, is within the range of approximately plus or minus 10 seats for each party.”
For daily election updates, go to http://canadians.org. To join the Council of Canadians, http://canadians.org/join/index.html.