Candidates dust off their runners as Harper kicks off election

  • Mar. 30, 2011 8:00 a.m.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a crowd of boisterous conservative supporters at a rally in Beaumont.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a crowd of boisterous conservative supporters at a rally in Beaumont.

By CHARLES TWEED

The only trace of red in the building was hanging on the walls in the form of Canadian flags in the École Bellevue School in Beaumont.

The crowd chanted “Harper” in anticipation of the Prime Minister of Canada before breaking out in an impromptu singing of the national anthem at a rally on March 28.

And then, he arrived, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The place erupted as signs were waved vigorously and elderly women swooned to shake his hand like a scene from an old Elvis clip.

It’s that time of year where everything has implications — election time.

Ryan Hastman, candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona — the only seat the Harper government doesn’t occupy in Alberta — was the man chosen to introduce the most powerful man in the country.

That Hastman was chosen to introduce the prime minster was about as big an accident as hosting the rally at a French immersion school that is referred to by its nom en francais.

“Edmonton-Strathcona — deserves a stronger voice inside the Conservative government. A voice to stop the Ignatieff, NDP, Bloc Quebecois coalition that will be bad for Alberta, that will be bad for Canada and that voice will be Ryan Hastman,” said Harper.

Harper will use every opportunity to put Hastman front and centre in the upcoming weeks as he looks to paint the province solid blue.

Harper didn’t feel he should be out campaigning right now but instead at his “desk working on the economy.”

He pointed to the fact the economy in Canada is stronger than almost any other first world county and that there was still more work to do.

“An election the country didn’t want, an election the economy doesn’t need,” he said empathically.

Harper defended his budget, the piece that inevitably led to the non confidence vote and a spring election.

“To an increase in income for Canada’s most vulnerable senior citizens, an increase we can afford without raising your taxes, friends, Conservatives say ‘Yes’. The coalition says ‘No.’ To a tax credit for the cost of children’s arts programs, something we can afford without raising your taxes, friends, Conservatives say ‘Yes”. The coalition says ‘No.’ To an incentive to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters in our community something we can afford to do without raising your taxes…”

References to a coalition government came fast and furious as Harper felt it was his mandate to do everything in his power to stop it from happening.

“The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois don’t think they have to win this election. Just remember, they think if they can hold us to another minority then they can move and will move with lightning speed to re-create and impose on Canadians their reckless coalition,” said Harper. “Mr. Ignatieff disavows the word coalition but what he says is this that he can form a government with the backing of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois even if he loses the election and that is why friends, to keep this economy moving forward to keep this country moving forward, Canada needs a strong, stable majority Conservative government.”

The crowd erupted in chants of “Harper, Harper, Harper,” supported by incumbent MPs from the region including Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins.

He warned of the spending habits of the Liberals and NDP before focusing his attention on the Bloc.

“Imagine allowing a party committed to the break up of Canada, to pick our government. Our position is pretty clear — you can either advocate breaking up the country or you can want to govern Canada but you can’t get to do both.”

Harper wrapped things up by asking people, “to choose the economy, to choose stability, to choose security by choosing a stable national Conservative government for Canada.”

The election takes place May 2 with declared candidates Calkins, NDP Tim Robson, Green Party Les Parsons. There is no candidate named to represent the Liberals or Action parties.