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Martin changes plan, battles for the West

Globe and Mail Update

Brampton, Ont. — Paul Martin will fly coast-to-coast Sunday in a last-gasp rush to drum up votes in a close election, saying he "could not live with" himself afterward if he did not do everything possible to eke out a win.

After blitzing a half-dozen southern Ontario towns Friday, the Liberal leader started with a campaign event in Brampton Saturday morning, before heading to four stops in New Brunswick, then flying on to Halifax to start events in Nova Scotia tomorrow.

But instead of returning to Montreal on Sunday night as planned, Mr. Martin will fly to Gatineau, Que., and then all the way across the country to Vancouver to end his campaign there Sunday. That means an overnight flight to return to be in his Lasalle-Emard riding in Montreal for voting day Monday

"Quite frankly this is a very tight election and I'm not taking anything for granted here. And I could not live with myself if I did not go flat out until the very last minute to essentially earn every vote that we can," he told reporters in Mississauga, Ont., this morning.

"As far as I'm concerned, the next two days are very, very important in terms of how this election is going to play out, what the final result is going to be. And I could not live with myself in terms of a candidate anywhere in this country and obviously in British Columbia, if I felt that I had not done everything that I possibly could."

An Ipsos-Reid poll published Friday in The Globe and Mail showed the two leading parties in a statistical tie, with the Liberals at 32 per cent and the Conservatives at 31. The NDP are at 17 -- and on Friday, Mr. Martin made a pitch to New Democrats for a stop-Harper vote.

Mr. Martin said that he wanted to show that the West that it is important to him — and that it was only fair.

"I just felt that in terms of my own vision of Canada, that I had to go to British Columbia. I feel it quite strongly personally, the necessity of going."


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"You know, we ask Western Canadians and British Columbians to come east all the time, and I think it's very important that we be prepared to go out there."

Reporters travelling with the tour --which has ended travel at midnight or later and started early almost every day this week --had grumbled and moaned since they were told that the return to Montreal had been put off for the coast-to-coast trip and overnight return. Mr. Martin brought donuts into the press room as a peace offering while they filed stories this morning.

"I do know that I'm imposing a great deal on some of you, and I'm not sure the donuts are enough, he said. He quipped that journalists should not take their annoyance out on his staff, because they won't defend him.

He joked that his own staff had also been grumbling since the Vancouver plan was set late Friday night, and some aren't talking to him. "Sheila," he said of his wife, "she's speaking to me, but actually right now, I wish she wasn't."

Mr. Martin started his campaign with a tour of a market in the Toronto suburb of Brampton this morning with two local candidates, before renewing his attacks on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper when he spoke to reporters.

He charged that Mr. Harper was trying to avoid questions about Conservative plans to use the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution "frequently and capriciously" to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and remove rights from minorities.

Mr. Martin again referred to comments made by British Columbia Conservative MP Randy White, who said that if the Conservatives are elected they will use the notwithstanding clause to overrule the courts on issues like same-sex marriage. "To heck with the courts," he said.

Mr. Harper has insisted that Mr. White was expressing personal views that are not party policy, and that the issue was a Liberal "smokescreen" aimed at distracting Canadians from the Liberal record in government.

But the Liberal Leader insisted that Mr. Harper's party should be judged by the comments of several MPs who make controversial statements. If a Liberal MP had made such statements, he would make a point of countering them on the record.

"One thing is clear, I would have corrected him publicly, point by point," he said.

But Mr. Martin has several Liberal MPs who are against same-sex marriage, but have advocated the use of the notwithstanding clause to push back against courts that they believe are inappropriately marching into Parliament's purview to make the law.

Conservative staffers have circulated to reporters quotes of Liberal MPs like Paul Steckle, Dan McTeague, Roger Gallaway, and Albina Guarnieri — the latter now a junior Defence Minister — in which they complained of judicial activism and advocated the use of the notwithstanding clause.

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