Campaigning for the federal election kicked into high gear Monday as federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion stopped in Calgary to speak.
Hours after Dion's party unveiled their full platform, entitled "Richer, Fairer, Greener: An Action Plan for the 21st Century," Dion introduced the Liberal candidates in southern Alberta and took aim at his rivals during a 45-minute town hall event.
The Liberal platform calls for balanced budgets, tackling the infrastructure deficit in municipalities, providing access for post-secondary education, renewed focus on health care and a ban on assault weapons. It will also include the Green Shift approach to tackling climate change with carbon taxes countered by income tax cuts.
"It's a great day in this campaign," said Dion. "We Liberals have released the action plan for a greener, fairer, richer Canada. This plan will be good for Alberta. We need to have a strong, prosperous and sustainable Alberta for a strong, prosperous and sustainable Canada."
The ballroom at the Greenwood Inn and Suites was filled to capacity, but the festivities were marred by a few of protestors carrying signs denouncing the "LIEberals" and questioning the party's record. Dion took the opportunity to clarify several details of the oft-criticized Green Shift plan and dispelled the comparison between it and the National Energy Program.
"What we're proposing has nothing to do with the NEP," said Dion. "The NEP was an attempt to change the world price of oil to make it lower to accommodate nine other provinces . . . We're proposing to keep the world price where it is, very high, but to bring in Canada, including in Alberta, a sustainable, prosperous economy and I know that's what Albertans want."
On the same day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party unveiled plans to reform the criminal justice system by revamping young offender laws to try 14-year-olds as adults for violent crimes, Dion criticized Harper's vision for Canada.
"This time, whether we have the gimmicks of Stephen Harper-- his attempt to bring us bit by bit towards the very Republican United States that he's dreaming-- whether we come with this progressive plan that will help us to be a leading country in this 21st century, there are two choices," he said. "We need to win this election."
Dion challenged Harper and the Conservatives on their record and several promises broken by the current government. However, a question from the audience also called the Liberals' record into question.
"In the '70s, the Liberals campaigned against wage and price controls, only to be elected and introduce wage and price controls," said the audience member. "In the '80s, the Liberals campaigned against increased gas taxes, only to be elected and impose even greater increases than those they had campaigned against. In the '90s, there was that small promise to eliminate the GST. Why should we believe what you're saying now?"
Dion stood his ground, once again criticizing the Conservative government's record.
"I have never broken a promise, sir," he said. "The man who broke his promises again and again is Stephen Harper."
Canadians head to the polls for the federal election Oct. 14. The full Liberal Party platform is available online at liberal.ca.