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This article was published 3/8/2015 (748 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau traded barbs from each other’s backyards Monday as the first full day of election 2015 got underway.
Harper campaigned on the economy in Laval, Que., a suburb of Trudeau’s hometown of Montreal, while Trudeau delivered a stump speech in Calgary, where Harper is from.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair did not appear in public Monday, as he was preparing for the first leaders’ debate scheduled for Thursday.
Harper kicked off the marathon, 79-day long campaign Sunday that will be the longest and most expensive in Canadian history. He has dismissed criticism he called the election early to take advantage of new spending limits he put in place that mostly benefit his own party, and is working hard to make the campaign about the economy, national security and experience.
"I think our plan has proven itself," Harper said at a fuel-system manufacturing plant. "Now is not the time for political correctness, inexperienced governance or an ideological unwillingness to act."
He kicked off the first election promise of this campaign with a pledge to expand the apprenticeship job creation tax credit. The credit currently gives a maximum $2,000 tax credit to businesses on wages paid to qualifying apprentices in their first two years. On Monday, Harper promised to expand it to include apprentices in their third and fourth years of training and to increase the maximum to $2,500.
It’s a promise expected to cost an additional $60 million. The program currently costs about $100 million and was claimed by almost 12,000 businesses for nearly 68,000 apprentices in 2013.
Harper said any troubles in the Canadian economy are temporary blips resulting from weaknesses elsewhere such as China.
But Harper’s emphasis on his economic record is mocked by his opponents who say the fact Canada’s economy is likely in a recession, the loonie is sinking and job creation has flatlined can all be blamed on Harper’s governance.
Trudeau chose to take his campaign to Calgary, a city long considered a Conservative bastion but where there are now some seats the Conservatives could potentially lose come Oct. 19.
He told the crowd, given the difficulties faced by the Alberta economy in the wake of the oil price collapse, Harper is not their ticket to wealth.
"With friends like Stephen Harper the Alberta economy doesn’t need enemies," Trudeau quipped.
He also criticized Harper for lacking accountability.
He didn’t promise anything new but stressed his pledges to link economic growth with environmental protections, and to change the universal child care benefit program to an income-based benefit.
"We will stop sending government cheques to millionaires just because they have children," he said. "Our plan is to invest in the people who need it most — the middle class and those working hard to join it."
Harper continued his campaign Monday in Kingston, Ont., and the greater Toronto area, which is where he will also spend Tuesday. Trudeau will also campaign there Tuesday.
The region in and around Toronto is a huge hunting ground for votes in this election. With 11 new ridings in this election, the Greater Toronto Area now has 56 seats, which is almost one-fifth of the total seats available.
In the pre-election campaign period, all three leaders showed the GTA a lot of love. Harper visited Toronto at least five times in the last two months, Mulcair made 11 stops in the area and Trudeau held nine events there. Other popular stops have included Montreal and its suburbs (each of the three was there at least twice) and New Brunswick.
Although it’s a small province with just 10 seats, the Conservatives are considered vulnerable in many of the eight seats they currently hold and the NDP and Liberals both hope to make gains there.
Trudeau is the only leader who has been to Manitoba recently, with two visits to Winnipeg since the beginning of June. The Liberals want to pick up at least three and as many as five seats in Winnipeg.
Harper is the only leader currently on a traditional campaign tour, complete with a bus and media entourage. The Liberals and NDP aren’t expected to start a traditional leader’s tour until closer to Labour Day.
Mulcair will be in Montreal Tuesday.