TRURO, N.S. – With the federal election still months away, Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a rousing campaign-style speech to tout his government’s economic record Thursday in a Nova Scotia riding known as a traditional Conservative stronghold.
With a large Canadian flag as a backdrop, Harper told a packed high school gym in Truro, N.S., that the Conservatives are confident heading into this fall’s election.
He said his government remains focused on issues that are important to Canadians. He then listed a series of familiar themes.
“Economic and financial security, creating and protecting jobs, lowering taxes for families and keeping Canada and Canadians safe in a world that is increasingly uncertain and dangerous,” said Harper. “That’s what Canadians care about.”
Harper said the Tories have provided a lower tax burden for Canadians while balancing the budget, something the NDP and Liberals wouldn’t do with their program proposals.
“Higher debt, higher taxes, eventual program cuts. That is what you get with Liberal and NDP policies.”
Harper ran through a list of his government’s achievements, including free trade agreements with Europe and South Korea, and the success of the federal infrastructure program in bringing the country through the world-wide recession of 2008.
The prime minister is in the riding of Cumberland-Colchester to give a boost to incumbent Conservative MP Scott Armstrong. The speech was also attended by Justice Minister Peter MacKay, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, Conservative Senator Thomas McInnis and Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
The show of party unity comes as Armstrong readies for what many expect will be a stiff challenge for the seat from former Tory MP Bill Casey who is running for the Liberals.
Casey represented the riding for 17 years, first as a Tory and then as an Independent before retiring from politics in 2009.
Before introducing Harper, Armstrong told the crowd that there is strong support in a riding that has voted Tory in 19 of the last 20 elections.
“And I can tell you with the support of everybody in this room we are going to make it 20 of 21, I can guarantee you that,” he said.
However, evidence that all may not be smooth sailing could be seen outside the high school prior to the speech where dozens of union members waved placards and chanted anti-Harper slogans.
Rob Beairsto, president of Teamsters Local 927 in the Maritimes, said he was on hand to protest the Harper government’s handling of the economy which he said is hurting the working class.
Beairsto said he believes Harper’s visit to Cumberland-Colchester is a signal the Conservatives are nervous about their prospects in October.
“I think what he’s going to find is the same thing that happened in Alberta,” said Beairsto. “I think Canadians are going to make a statement.”
Harper will be Truro on Friday morning where he is to make an announcement before returning to Ottawa.
By Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press