The campaign in Brandon-Souris is hearing up as Conservatives pitch their lowest attacks since Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff's leadership of the Liberal Party. However, with polls suggesting Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale is set to take the Conservative stronghold, Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't ready to leave without a fight.
In addition to personally campaigning in the riding, Harper has sent a letter, signed under his name, to Brandon-Souris residents. Heavily laced with rhetoric and spotty in its facts, the letter shows a sign of desperation in a man who cannot answer simple questions about illegal activities that happened in his own office - something he deplored former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin for. If the action didn't do enough to cry for help, its lies paint a skewed picture that is no longer believable and one last word finishes it off: "need." Harper "needs" his candidate to win in Brandon-Souris, and that is no understatement. A loss would give his rival, Justin Trudeau, the momentum to sweep Conservative ridings that have held steady for one reason: up until recently, the Liberal Party of Canada wasn't perceived to be the Liberal Party of Canada, instead it was perceived as a diluted NDP - the worst position to be in.
Harper's letter sparked reaction in the riding. One insulted resident, Kathryn Giesbrecht said the letter makes the Conservatives appear desperate, adding, “I found it insulting.”
"I get this great letter, but I am a university student, and the Conservative candidate couldn’t be bothered to come and talk to me."
“The Conservatives are scrambling. You are looking at $1, easily $1 to $1.50 per letter,” she said, adding they’re all over her riding. "I'm not really impressed and I think that they're grasping at straws to try and get that last couple of votes."
The letter begins, "On November 25th you have an important decision to make. Don't let anyone tell you this by-election doesn't matter - there's a lot on the line."
The letter then contains the usual rhetoric of keeping taxes low and having the best job performance in the G7, followed by taking a jab at the old gun registry.
"We also fought hard to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have pledged to bring it back."
The only problem with the last line is Trudeau pledged to leave the registry in its grave during the Liberal leadership race and there is no indication he or the party intend to do otherwise.
The letter then goes on to talk about the next Conservative talking-point: crime. This point is going to become increasingly difficult to sell if Conservative law rhetoric doesn't apply to themselves and if their "tough on crime" agenda is nothing more than being "hypocrites on crime." As expected, Harper took a jab at the Liberals for that too, saying, "Only last week, Trudeau announced that a liberal government would scrap mandatory prison sentences."
The only problem with that statement is the Liberals announced to "review" mandatory minimums which could actually mean strengthening them for harsh crimes like murder and paedophilia - which is more likely than not.
Harper then attacks Trudeau for wanting to legalize marijuana, failing to mention his own MP Scott Reid told Granite Ridge Education Centre grade 10 students, "I've never smoked marijuana, or cigarettes, but I favour legalization," in September!
He then tries to repeat the rhetoric he used against Ignatieff. Remember the "just visiting" bit. Apparently Larry Maguire is best because the Liberal candidate just moved to the region. If the letter wasn't enough, look at the flyer that Brandon residences are getting in their mailboxes.
To wrap up the letter, Harper says, "it is a choice between our low-tax plan for jobs and growth or Justin Trudeau's high-tax agenda that will kill jobs and set families back; a choice between our tough on crime agenda that puts victims and our communities first, or the Liberal soft on crime approach."
Once again, what he says is questionable. The Liberals haven't recently announced any plans to raise taxes, and as they return to the party they used to be, the Conservatives may want to look in the mirror as the Liberals successfully turned a $40 billion deficit into a $13 billion surplus from the 1990s to 2006 and lowered taxes in the process - meanwhile, Harper at one point amassed a $53 billion deficit and was in deficit before the recession even started.
Finally, Harper writes, "I need Larry Maguire as part of our team in Ottawa. I ask you to give him your support on November 25th. God bless you and your family," showing how desperately he needs this riding.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau released his response, an open letter, today - setting a contrast on his to Harper's methods. "Monday’s by-election is an important moment. Your choice could not be clearer. Do you want a representative who will be your voice in Ottawa, or do you want someone who will be Mr. Harper’s voice in your community?"
Trudeau then took a jab at Harper's dodging of questions in The Duffy Affair, adding he believes in honest leaders.
"I believe that Canadians deserve leaders who tell the truth. Leaders who are open and honest, and who answer straight questions with straight answers.
I am writing to you in that spirit. Many of you will have received in the mail malicious, negative and false attacks on me from the Conservative Party and – in an unprecedented move – Mr. Harper himself."
On crime, I believe that serious crimes deserve serious punishment. As for mandatory minimum sentences, for years our party has supported them for serious crimes, and continues to do so. We simply believe that the Conservatives have applied them across the board and are now wasting your money fighting losing battles in the courts, as they get overturned on constitutional grounds.
That, my friends, is the truth. Sophie and I are proud, proud parents of two young kids. We have a third on the way in the spring. Anybody who suggests that I am anything other than fully committed to protecting my kids and yours from crime and exploitation needs to think hard about the way they practice politics."
One by one, every single Conservative MP voted to help the Prime Minister cover up his involvement, and that of his senior staff. We have since learned from the RCMP that this scandal reaches the highest levels of the Prime Minister’s Office, including his Chief of Staff and at least 12 of his closest advisors."