Ignatieff accuse Conservatives of divisive tactics
By Althia Raj, Postmedia News March 28, 2011
TORONTO — Michael Ignatieff chastised Prime Minister Stephen Harper for calling immigrants "people who come from other lands" at a rally in Mississauga, Ont., Monday night, saying the Conservatives' were leading a campaign of division.
Ignatieff told an audience filled with many Canadians of Sikh and Muslim backgrounds that during Harper's visit to Brampton, Ont., on Sunday, "he looked out at the same crowd and he said, "You people, you people who come from other lands."
"What an unbelievable way to talk about the Canadian people," Ignatieff said, as the crowd chanted "Shame! Shame!"
"The way these people talk tells you everything you need to know about their basic contempt for us," the Liberal leader said, noting the Conservatives had divided up the country into "ethnic areas" and "very ethnic areas."
"The last time I heard somebody talk about the ethnic vote, it was out of the mouth of Jacques Parizeau the night he lost the referendum," Ignatieff said. "He blamed it on the ethnic vote."
"We have got to put an end to the language of divisions," Ignatieff continued.
"I don't want to be the prime minister of you people, I want to be the prime minister of the Canadian people."
Although Ignatieff said he found the expression "ethnic vote" offensive, he spent Monday afternoon glad-handing Chinese-Canadian business owners in Toronto's Trinity-Spadina riding, and his party has explicitly reached out to ethnic voters in its advertising.
The Liberal leader told reporters the Conservatives, and especially Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, are practising divisive politics.
"I think it is contemptuous to tell people we are going to target your religion, we are going to target your ethnicity, we are going to target your national origins. No! We must target the fact they are Canadian citizens."
Ignatieff suggested he didn't want people to view his stops as courting the ethnic vote but Liberal MP John McCallum had no problem explaining how the Liberals are reaching out to minority communities with specific policies.
"My riding has large numbers of new Canadians, he said. "For example, Chinese people want Canada to have a close and growing relationship with China.
"We stand for a strong Canada-China relationship."
Ignatieff's advertising in Quebec also talks about how citizens can be Quebecers and Canadians — in whichever order they choose.
The party also has unveiled advertisements featuring ordinary Canadians speaking languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Cantonese and Mandarin, Punjabi and Portuguese.
It wasn't the only slightly discordant note for the Liberals Monday.
McCallum also found himself on the defensive trying to explain whether the Liberals would raise taxes.
"We are rolling back corporate taxes, but the dollars that we obtain from that would be put into the pockets of middle class Canadians who will spend that money and that will create jobs," he said.
The corporate tax rate is 16.5 per cent and the Liberals promise to pin it at 18 per cent, where it was until the end of last year.
"That is an increase," McCallum admitted, but added small and medium businesses would be spared.
Tory advertising has targeted the Liberals as being ready to increase taxes.
Later, McCallum told Ignatieff's chief of staff, Peter Donolo, he was "sorry" he had spoken with reporters on the issue and had veered slightly off message.
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