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Conservatives on "the wrong side of every national issue," Martin says

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:45 p.m. November 29, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Paul Martin pulled out the heavy ammunition in a campaign rally in Ottawa on Tuesday and fired some harsh words at Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his party.  

Speaking to a rally of Liberal campaign organizers and candidates at an Ottawa nightclub, Martin served notice that the election campaign will be about "a fundamental clash of values," between the Liberals and Conservatives. 

The prime minister accused Harper and the Conservatives of not believing in global warming, being opposed to his national child care program and being silent while he engaged in a war of words with Washington on the softwood lumber file. 

"I'm beginning to understand, however, why you never hear Stephen Harper talking about the issues of our day," Martin said. "It's because he and the Conservatives are on the wrong side of every national issue."

Martin then painted Harper as someone who would dramatically change the Canada as it exists presently. 

"Stephen Harper's policies are different than mine, they're different than yours," he said. "His values are different. His Canada would be different. And the question is, what do you want Canada to be?"

He then suggested Harper would move Canada backwards and create a health care system that would require a "credit card" among other things.

As strongly worded as Martin's speech was, the Conservatives believed the Liberal war room had crossed a line earlier in the day when they sent blackberry messages to some Hill reporters questioning Harper's patriotism. 

It all began when Harper was asked by a reporter during his media availability on Parliament Hill after the writ was dropped the following question: "The Prime Minister outside of Rideau Hall spoke of his values, beliefs, a future for the country, promises. You speak of accountability, taxpayers' change and scandal. I wonder, do you love this country?"

Harper responded by saying, "I said Canada is a great country" and then went into an explanation of his travels across the country. 

However, the Conservatives said a senior Hill reporter informed them of an e-mail the someone in the Liberal war room sent out to some reporters shortly after Harper was asked the question, claiming that Harper doesn't love the country. 

Late Tuesday, Conservative MP Jason Kenney issued a press release demanding the prime minister apologize for "this unacceptable personal attack on Stephen Harper's patriotism." 

"Paul Martin may disagree with Stephen Harper on many issues, including the Liberal Party's record of scandal and waste," said Kenney said in a statement. "But he would never question Paul Martin's love for Canada."

"It's sad that the Liberal Party does not show others the same basic respect, and still seems to confuse loyalty to the Liberal Party with loyalty to Canada."

Martin, however, kicked off his rally by mocking Harper's response to the question. 

"This morning I'm told Stephen Harper had a little difficulty saying this, so I'll say it. I love Canada," he said to the cheers of Liberal supporters. 

A Conservative source told PoliticsWatch they were stunned when they heard the Liberal war room was spinning that Harper doesn't love Canada. 

"It's worst kind of political McCarthyism to accuse your opponent of not loving the country," the source said.

It's the second time in a week an apology has been demanded in Ottawa. 

Martin demanded an apology from Harper last week after he kicked off debate on the non-confidence motion in the House of Commons by accusing the Liberal party of working "with the help of organized crime" in Adscam. 

Harper has refused to apologize for the remarks, but the Liberals sent a letter from their law firm to Harper threatening to sue the Conservatives if they tried to link the government to organized crime on the campaign trail.

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