Few witness Harper’s visit to city

Liberal candidate criticizes PM's stealthy trip to byelection riding

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OTTAWA -- The federal Conservatives are all smoke and no fire when it comes to actually fighting crime, Winnipeg North Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux charged Tuesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2010 (4296 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives are all smoke and no fire when it comes to actually fighting crime, Winnipeg North Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux charged Tuesday.

His comments came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a surprise visit to Conservative candidate Julie Javier’s McPhillips Street campaign office.

Both are signs of how hot the byelection battle is getting to fill the seat vacated by longtime NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis last spring.

Lamoureux was incredulous that Harper would visit Winnipeg North without giving voters a chance to hear him speak, choosing instead to visit Javier’s office without any prior notification except to Conservative insiders.

“Under the cover of darkness the PM comes into Winnipeg North and then hightails it out of here,” said Lamoureux. “I always thought politics was about engaging people. You have to question why it is they didn’t want anyone to know about (his visit.)

He said voters should contrast that to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who has visited Winnipeg North three times in the last three months, including holding an open town hall and taking questions from anyone who wanted to ask one. Ignatieff will also be in the riding going door knocking with Lamoureux later this month.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied there was anything covert about Harper’s visit, which came the night before he held an economic roundtable at a south Winnipeg business.

“The PM was in Winnipeg to kick off economic consultations and he made a brief stop to talk to the campaign team, volunteers and candidate,” said a PMO spokesperson Tuesday.

When Harper called the byelections in three ridings late last month, his office said he had no plans to campaign in any of them.

Lamoureux said Harper clearly wasn’t interested in taking any tough questions from riding residents about why his party killed its own justice legislation last winter, proroguing Parliament and sending at least half a dozen crime bills back to the starting gate.

He said the Conservatives tout themselves as the only party that cares about fighting crime but in reality have done nothing effective.

“At the end of the day is it any safer in Winnipeg North than it was five years ago,” asked Lamoureux. “Ask anyone who lives here. They will tell you no.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., said the Liberals just know crime plays with voters.

“One of the things you’ll find out about the Liberals is they only discover the crime file when there is an election or a byelection on,” said Nicholson.

He said among the changes initiated by his government are eliminating two-for-one credit for pretrial custody and raising the minimum age of sexual consent to 16 from 14.

He said just last week his government got a bill through the Senate making auto theft a separate offence in the criminal code, something western provinces including Manitoba have demanded for years.

He also said all the Liberal senators on the legal affairs committee last week voted against his drug bill setting mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes.

“They didn’t get the message that there is an election on,” said Nicholson.

Winnipeg North NDP candidate Kevin Chief said he didn’t know about Harper’s visit and had no real comment about the lack of notice to voters other than to say it was “odd.”

A message left at Javier’s campaign office was not returned.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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