By BRIAN LAGHI
The Globe and Mail
Niagara Falls, Ont. Stockwell Day mislaid his compass Tuesday at the Canada-U.S. border, slowing him down for a second consecutive day in his effort to showcase his economic prescriptions for the country.
In the second campaign slip-up in as many days, the Canadian Alliance leader again saw his messages on fixing the brain drain obscured, as a result of a sense of misdirection over which way one of Canada's major bodies of water flows. Mr. Day was attempting to draw a parallel between Canadians who go south to the United States for work, and the flow of Lake Erie. The problem with the analogy is that the lake migrates toward Canada, not away from it.
"Just as Lake Erie drains from north to south, there is an ongoing drain in terms of our young people in terms of our country," Mr. Day told reporters Tuesday while standing in front of a picture window that framed the Niagara Falls below.
"We would like to see that stop when it is a case of people feeling forced to move because of high levels of taxation."
When informed later that the Lake drains into the Niagara River, which travels north, Mr. Day said he planned to talk to the staff member who gave him the bum information.
"We will check the record," he said. "If someone has wrongly informed me about the flow of this particular water, then I will be having a pretty interesting discussion."
The gaffe came one day after Mr. Day took reporters to an Ottawa high-tech firm whose president left the United States for Canada, and who regularly hires American technology workers to come north. The firm, Quake Technologies Inc., was founded six months ago by a returning Canadian who wanted to tap into the Ottawa high-tech talent pool.
Tuesday's visit to the border city was part of a second long day of campaigning in Ontario for Mr. Day, who is spending a substantial amount of time in the province in an effort to help the party break through in the province where the Alliance currently holds just one seat. The Alliance sees the Canadian exodus as a major issue upon which it can capitalize to gain dearly needed seats in the province.
Mr. Day used much of the day to try to punch home his message that annually, the equivalent of one mid-sized city — about 65,000 people — emigrate to the United States.
"A good portion of those are moving because of the pressure of taxes here ...," he said.
"We're concerned when we see the ongoing shift. We think it's just one of another significant sign that this is a time for change."
Mr. Day said the Alliance's answer to the exodus is a program of significantly reduced taxes, and increased funding and support to various research councils and foundations.
Speaking against a backdrop that included a fog-shrouded Niagara Falls, Mr. Day argued that so many Canadian individuals live in San Jose, Calif., that one of the biggest events is the annual Canada Day celebrations. He added that the country loses $350-million in taxes a year, forcing other Canadians to foot the bill for the country's social safety net.
Earlier in the day, in Oakville, Ont., Mr. Day provided a taste of how he planned to criticize the Liberals on their economic policy on the brain drain. He went after Jean Chrétien for comments a year ago playing down the problem of those who wish to leave Canada for the United States "That's sort of the Little Bo Peep attitude," he told and enthusiastic crowd of about 200. "Just leave them alone. Some day they'll come home wagging their tails behind them."
He also appealed to Ontarians tired of Liberal backbenchers who he says are forced to vote against their constituents' view in support of the government.
"The Canadian Alliance will have MPs who will not be speaking and voting on command from the Prime Minister's Office, but will be speaking and voting on command from you, the constituents." The Alliance also has a policy to recall badly performing MPs, an issue Mr. Day made mention of.
Oakville is one of the few ridings in Ontario where the Alliance can be said to have a potential star candidate. Dan Ferrone, a former Toronto Argonaut lineman, is seeking the right to carry the party's banner against local party's nomination.
Also Tuesday, Mr. Day found himself the subject of student protests when he visited Brock University in St. Catharines to talk to students there.
Mr. Day waved as he passed through a group of about 100 protesters chanting slogans like "sexist, racist, anti-gay, we won't vote for Stockwell Day."
Despite the protests, local candidates said Tuesday they feel the Alliance has a significant chance of winning seats in the blue-collar area. Niagara candidate Mel Granstein said the combined vote of the Tories and the Alliance's predecessor, the Reform Party, would win the local riding for him.
He said a hard core of Tories remain in the area, but a large portion of them have decided to throw their lot in with the Alliance, now that it has changed names and leaders.