RICHMOND, B.C. -- New Democrat Adrian Dix's positive vibrations election campaign turned decidedly snarly Tuesday as he was forced to grit his teeth while facing difficult questions about spies, communists and the Chinese head tax.
The Liberals lobbed their own accusations of spying Tuesday after the campaign manager of Transportation Minister Mary Polak quit. Todd Hauptman complained as a gay man, he felt marginalized among Polak supporters who he viewed as anti-gay, but Polak suggested the real issue was information sharing between Hauptman and the NDP campaign in the riding.
Dix had an answer for each of the probing concerns lobbed his way in crowded and heated campaign stops in suburban Richmond and Vancouver's Chinatown: blame the Liberals -- but in a respectful way.
At one point in Richmond, Dix walked away from a scrum in mid-sentence, saying his Richmond Centre candidate Frank Huang came to Canada to find and build a new life and he doesn't need the disrespectful Liberals dredging up his past as a Chinese Communist party member.
Huang, who has won a B.C. journalism award for his coverage of one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's trips to China, said he was a Chinese Communist before immigrating to Canada in 2000, but said everybody in China who gets involved in politics is forced to be a Communist.
He later confirmed that on the same day last February that he was asked to seek a nomination for the NDP in the May 14 election, the Liberals also approached him to run for them, but he chose the NDP after discussions with his family.
Dix's testy side has started to show itself in recent days as the campaign enters its final week with the NDP's front-runner status wobbling and Liberal Leader Christy Clark gaining ground on the strength of her personal appeal and push to make the economy and the NDP's past failures on the economic front the campaign's central issue.
Dix, who has been limiting his news conferences to one per day, held three scrums with reporters Tuesday, one in Sidney on Vancouver Island, and two others in Richmond and Chinatown.
"It is so disrespectful to say that people who come to Canada and are part of the community in Canada and are Canadian citizens can't participate in politics in Canada," Dix said in Richmond. "Frank's a great candidate and he's going to do an excellent job here."
"It is, I think, disrespectful to make these kind of statements, really, which the Liberal party feels free to do," he said. "It is so disrespectful for the Liberal party to do it."
Dix briefly addressed a question from a reporter who asked for his reaction to concerns by Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Intelligence Security Service, that there are concerns about Chinese media doing spy work in Canada and their prime targets are Canadian politicians.
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Huang said he worked under Communist rule in China, but denied he was a Canadian security risk.
"Yes, I used to work in the provincial government in China," he said. "Everyone who worked there in the government is expected to join the party. There is a special political system in Canada."
Huang said he quit the Chinese communist party before coming to Canada.
"I love the NDP's positive campaign here," said Clark. "How many times did Adrian Dix say he was going to run a positive campaign, and this is how they show it.
"They say they're going to run a positive campaign, but it's really a negative campaign. It's not that different from they say they're in favour of resource development, but then they say no. Positive means negative, yes means no. I think we're kind of getting used to that from the NDP."
But the Liberals had their own riding controversy Tuesday.
Upon quitting as Polak's campaign manager, Hauptman issued an open letter saying he felt marginalized because of his sexual orientation and called he on Polak and others to speak up for the gay community.
Hauptman wrote Polak has also shown him support and love, but he said he has been conflicted because "the very base of voters who will likely help Mary get re-elected in just one week's time are made up of individuals who hold hateful attitudes towards the community I am a part of.
"It is knowing this that I simply cannot in good conscience support a campaign made up of people who think of me as less of a person because I am gay."
Polak told a sombre news conference she became concerned about a close friendship Hauptman developed with a member of the NDP campaign in Langley.
"It had come to my attention that there was information disclosed to the other campaign," she said, without elaborating except to say it involved campaign strategy.
"I told him that I wanted him to remain campaign manager but that we were going to have to figure out a way to address the security of information on the campaign."
She said the next thing she knew, media reports had said Hauptman had resigned.
Dix also attended a luncheon in Vancouver's Chinatown at the Yue Shan Society headquarters with about 50 people, including prominent Vancouver Chinese-Canadian candidates Jenny Kwan, George Chow and Gabriel Yiu.
Dix told reporters following the luncheon he expects the Liberal party to apologize for the actions of one of its members who called a radio call-in show under an assumed name to discredit Huang's English language skills.
"I always try and be respectful to people, but surely in this case, the Liberal party is going to apologize," he said. "Surely, they can't be attacking the NDP for their own misbehaviour."
Dix was also asked about how an NDP government would approach the long-standing issue of a formal B.C. government apology for the federal government's decision more than 100 years ago to impose a head tax on Chinese immigrants.
The federal government issued a formal apology to Chinese immigrants, but plans by B.C. governments, including the Liberals, have always fallen through.
Clark has told members of the Chinese media she will offer a formal apology during her first session of government if elected on May 14.
In northern B.C., Clark made a stop where she once again made the case for liquefied natural gas development as the solution that would lift the province out of debt.
Donning a hard hat and protective glasses, Clark walked though Spectra Energy's processing facility in Fort Nelson, where raw gas is separated from impurities, and a water testing room.
"How is the campaign going?" asked power engineer Louis Carew at one point.
"We're catching up," she told him with a smile, referring to the various poll numbers that indicate the Liberals are narrowing the gap to single digits behind the NDP.
As part of a campaign that has largely been characterized by visits to job sites, Clark wasted no time in reminding reporters after the tour of Spectra Energy that the LNG industry could generate 100,000 jobs and $100 billion in revenue over the next three decades.
"(NDP leader) Adrian Dix will tell you this is a fairy tale, but if you want to know if it's real, why don't you ask the 164 employees who work here full time, or the hundreds more who are hired for ongoing maintenance activity?" she said. "This opportunity is very real for all of the people in our province."
In Kitimat, where Clark hopes liquefaction facilities would be built and where LNG would one day be shipped off to markets in Asia, she greeted supporters with the same message: the NDP says no to economic opportunities, the Liberals say yes.
"Just look at their position on natural gas," she told them at a viewpoint that overlooks the Douglas Channel. "They say they will support it, but every chance they get, they say no to all of the things that need to happen to make it a go."
Clark was also greeted by anti-pipeline advocates, holding signs such as "No to Enbridge" and "No Enbridge, no conditions."
Long-time Kitimat resident Margaret Ouwehand said while she opposes the Northern Gateway Pipeline entirely, she said she is more tolerant of liquefied natural gas plants being built where she lives.
"Personally I'm against (LNG), but I understand people are for it and it's not as bad," she said. "Bitumen is what we're wanting to keep out of the area. Natural gas might blow us all to smithereens, but it won't devastate the environment."
Dix has spent the last week emphasizing that his party is one that not only says yes to LNG, but to other sectors such as mining, forestry, tourism and film and television as well.
Despite that, Clark maintained that Dix's "go-slow" attitude towards resource development, and his proposal to expand the carbon tax on oil and gas emissions, would sink the LNG industry.
"The NDP are proposing a $200-million dollar additional tax today in carbon tax on this opportunity," she said. "This opportunity would stop dead in its tracks. . . with that $200-million tax."
Clark herself has proposed a tax on LNG exports, but she insisted that tax would benefit British Columbians.