Day defends nomination process, critical of election call

Outgoing Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day says the Opposition “engineered” today’s expected election call with a plan to form a coalition government if his party, the Conservatives, cannot form a majority government.

Outgoing Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day says the Opposition “engineered” today’s expected election call with a plan to form a coalition government if his party, the Conservatives, cannot form a majority government.

Day, who announced two weeks ago he would not run in the next election, said despite all indications coming from the Liberals and NDP for months that they planned to force an election around the time of the federal budget, he was genuinely surprised they carried through with the threat.

Using Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s description that an election is unnecessary 2 1/2 years into the current mandate, Day said he truly believes Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton will include the Bloc Quebecois in that coalition.

“And any coalition with the separatists is not on,” said Day.

While he admitted to feeling the rush of adrenaline at the prospect of yet another election—one he will not be running in after 25 years in public life—Day said he did not regret his decision to quit federal politics.

The Opposition was expected to vote today in favour of a motion of non-confidence in the minority Tory government, stemming from the Conservatives being found in contempt of Parliament over their refusal to provide MPs with information about the cost of new jet fighters and their anti-crime bill.

Day said that information was given to the Opposition-dominated Parliamentary Committee when the minister showed up to testify. But the committee still recommended the government be found in contempt without reading the 700-plus pages finally turned over. He said the Opposition MPs said it was not enough.

As for the coming election, Day conceded it could get rough. But he said his party will stress its success managing the economy, whereas he expects the Liberals will, in his words, “present a plan to raise taxes.”

“There will be a clear choice for voters,” added Day.

The Opposition will also likely raise the issue of ethics given the scandals plaguing the Harper government, such as the contempt citation—the first in Canadian history for a government, accusations of contempt of Parliament for International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda over her explanation for changing a recommendation to give a non-profit group funding, the so-called in-and-out advertising plan during the last election that was found to be illegal, and an investigation into a former aide to the prime minister accused of illegal lobbying.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc have all said they will not support the budget which, in itself, would trigger an election.

In recent weeks, Canadians have been bombarded with political attack ads, first from the Conservatives and then from the Liberals.

Day said heading into an election, candidates may want to keep it clean, but often jabs are thrown in the heat of an election race. “When the gun sounds, everyone is trying to keep it clean at the starting line but halfway down the track, elbows tend to get thrown,” he said.

Day, who held the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding for 11 years and easily won the last election with 58 per cent of the vote, will hand over the Tory reigns to federal newcomer Dan Albas in the next election.

He will be challenged by the NDP’s David Finnis, a Summerland councilor, and a Liberal candidate to be nominated March 28.

Albas, a Penticton city councillor, is no stranger to getting elected, said Day, and he will be available to Albas and his team but will wait to be asked.

In response to accusations by some unsuccessful, would-be Conservative candidates that Day’s announcement was deliberately coordinated to exclude them, the veteran MP shrugged it off as untrue.

He said within minutes of his announcement, “everyone” knew and he had calls from many potential candidates. He said the well organized ones got their nomination papers filed in time. He denied he had a chosen successor.

“Hard-working volunteers are the ones who run the (nomination process), not the party brass,” said Day. “I feel bad that their actions are now being questioned.”