Surging Layton Fends off Attacks NDP Platform Unaffordable in Canada Vote

Canadian opposition New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, whose party has risen in opinion polls and may be poised to boost its seat count in the May 2 election, dismissed rivals’ attacks that his platform is unaffordable.

Layton’s NDP became the subject of direct attacks from both Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff over the weekend after polls showed his party gaining voter support.

“‘We are very proud of our practical steps that we are proposing for Canadians,” Layton, 60, yesterday said in a brief interview in Toronto. “They address the practical problems that they are grappling with right now: affordability, lack of family doctors, retirement security.”

The left-leaning NDP was statistically tied with the Liberals in a Nanos Research poll published today. The Liberals ran a new television commercial over the weekend saying NDP promises are unaffordable, turning his focus from Harper’s Conservatives, and another one today saying both parties are “two sides of the same coin” with wasteful spending plans.

“If you look at this science fiction platform, you get to C$70 billion of spending over four years, and we just think the numbers don’t add up,” Ignatieff said of the NDP program today in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He pointed to Layton’s plan to raise C$3.6 billion in revenue ($3.8 billion) in the fiscal year that started April 1 by introducing a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases.

Never Governed

Ignatieff also made several references since the NDP’s jump in the polls to the party never having formed a federal government. The party has governed in half of Canada’s 10 provinces.

The Conservatives aired a television ad during last night’s playoff hockey broadcast that said both Layton and Ignatieff are making promises that can only be paid for by raising taxes. Ignatieff has said he will reverse tax cuts worth C$6 billion a year for companies such as Royal Bank of Canada if he’s elected.

Voters will choose between the opposition’s “high-tax agenda” and “stable national government with our low-tax plan for jobs and growth,” Harper said today in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

‘Copying Our Platform’

Asked about Ignatieff’s statements that the NDP plan is too expensive, Layton said, “I notice that he’s spent most of his time copying our platform.” He said the NDP has “very practical proposals” for implementing its platform.

Both Layton and Ignatieff both spoke at yesterday’s Khalsa Day Sikh cultural event in Toronto, and the two briefly met and shook hands. Before the leaders spoke, Preet Rai, a 19-year-old student from Toronto, said she will support Layton because “he will make a difference.”

“Whatever I’ve seen from the Liberals and the Conservatives is a whole bunch of lies,” Rai said, adding she is concerned that she won’t be able to afford tuition fees.

Avtar Singh, 55, who owns a garage and works on the campaign of a local Conservative candidate, also attended the rally. He said he favors the Conservatives because “they believe in Canadian values like free enterprise,” and “are working hard to bring us out of recession.”

Nationally, the NDP was backed by 24 percent of Canadians, compared with the 18 percent it received in the 2008 vote and up from 17 percent on April 19, according to today’s Nanos poll. The Conservatives were supported by 39 percent of voters and the Liberals had 26 percent. The national survey questioned 1,200 voters by telephone on April 21, 23 and 24, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Toronto at gquinn1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net; David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net.

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