By JEFF GRAY and ALLISON DUNFIELD
Globe and Mail Update
Minutes after the Prime Minister asked the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament, the opposition parties spoke out on the coming election and the choices it presents to Canadians.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day had pledged to take Sundays off to spend them with his family, but Alliance MP Jason Kenney spoke to reporters in Ottawa, accusing the Liberals of having "disrespect for democracy."
He slammed the Prime Minister for allowing 17 bills to die on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament, including amendments to the Young Offenders Act.
Mr. Kenney said the Liberals will leave "a record of mismanagement, abuse of tax dollars, of waste, secrecy and disrespect for democracy."
He blamed the government for "a diminishment in our productivity and standard of living and our strength as an economy" criticizing the Liberals under Jean Chrétien for their "top-down style of government run out of and for the Prime Minister's Office."
"Canadians are tired of this tired government, and they want change. This election will give them that opportunity," Mr. Kenney said, pledging the Alliance to cut taxes more quickly and deeply, to reduce the debt, and to preserve health care.
NDP Leader Alexa McDonough spoke outside an Ottawa community health centre, referring to the past week in which the Liberals unveiled a tax-cutting mini-budget, as "Who Wants to Help a Millionaire? Your host, Jean Chrétien."
Ms. McDonough said there were few differences between the Liberals, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.
"The choice for working families was never clearer. Do they want a government committed to improving services, committed to cutting waiting lists for cancer treatment and child-care spaces, committed to cutting tuition for students, or do they want a government hell-bent to cut taxes instead?"
When asked about her party's poor standing in the polls, Ms. McDonough said, "The point of an election ... is to influence the choices that need to be made.
"I don't care whether we're at 10 per cent or 15 per cent or 1 per cent in the polls. ... We're not backing away from that fight."
Tory Leader Joe Clark spoke to reporters in Digby, N.S., criticizing the Prime Minister for going to the polls just 3½ years into his mandate.
"He's walked off the job with a lot of business yet to be done. He was elected in 1997 for a full mandate; he's walking out in the middle of it," Mr. Clark said. He said the early election would cost taxpayers $200-million, and that this money could be better used elsewhere.
"The Prime Minister pretends he's a moderate. Well, we know just exactly what Liberal values stand for. Liberal values talk about pepper spray," he said, referring to the scandal over protests at the 1997 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vancouver. "Liberal values mean leaving the poorest of Canada's taxpayers out of the tax cuts," he added.
He also accused the Prime Minister of orchestrating "the most dramatic show of contempt for Parliament that I've seen in all of my time in that House," referring to the Liberal no-show at a hearing on the Auditor-General's report on government waste this week.
Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québécois, said after Sunday's election call that his party would demand an explanation on Liberal government waste and Liberal "patronage" and would push the government to crack down on Quebec's biker gang violence which has escalated recently with the beating death of a Montreal restaurant owner, said to be gang-related.
"We will demand transfer of money for health, education and social welfare."
Mr. Duceppe said the Bloc would push the Liberals to spend the budget surplus to "help the poorest people of society."
He said the Bloc must exist because it is "more important for Quebec to become a country," and because Quebeckers need representation in the House of Commons.
"This party is the only one representing the values cherished by Quebec...the sovereign Quebec must be represented in Ottawa."
Mr. Duceppe also claimed that Mr. Chrétien's election call would "take Canadians by surprise," benefiting the Bloc.