HAMILTON — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau enlisted the support of former prime minister Jean Chretien on Sunday to brush up his economic bona fides and accuse the NDP of wanting to make it easier to break up the country.
Both Trudeau and Chretien told a rally Sunday in Hamilton that an NDP government would repeal the Clarity Act, which says any referendum requires a clear question and clear majority for separation.
Trudeau said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair believes a single vote — 50 per cent plus one — should decide whether Canada remains united, thereby resurrecting the ghost of a divided Canada not seen since the 1995 vote on Quebec secession.
"The divisions that referendum (sewed) and the pain that it caused Canadians must not be repeated,'' said Trudeau, standing alongside Chretien.
"Mulcair? He wants to roll the dice. He wants to put separation back on the table and turn the clock back 20 years, which means all of Thomas Mulcair's experience in politics has simply taught him one thing: to play politics with anything and everything, including the unity of this country to gain a few votes from separatists.''
Mulcair has dismissed such criticism, saying he has fought for a united Canada his whole life but that the Clarity Act doesn't spell out what constitutes a majority. He recently said the Clarity Act is not a high priority for him and challenged Trudeau to say what his threshold for separation would be.
Trudeau wouldn't say what would constitute a "clear majority'' when asked by reporters Sunday.
"I'll let Justin Trudeau continue with his golden oldies tour and bring out Jean Chretien today and start talking about the quarrels of the past,'' Mulcair said earlier Sunday after making a senior health-care announcement in Vancouver.
"We are talking about solving the problems for the future.''
Back in Hamilton, Chretien employed his trademark folksy style to reinforce Trudeau's message. He also slammed the Conservative response to the exodus of Syrian refugees, saying Canada has a history of accepting displaced people, including from Vietnam when "it was possible ... there were a few communists in the gang.''
"Do you think that the Germans, who are welcoming hundreds of thousands of people in their land today, are sure that there aren't a couple of people there who might become a problem?'' Chretien said following the rally.
"If somebody comes to Canada as a refugee and we find out that he's a bad apple, we put him on a plane back home.''
He also told party supporters that it was past Liberal governments who restored prosperity after years of Conservative rule.
"Now Justin, you'll have to do the same thing for Harper,'' Chretien quipped.
He later set his sights on Mulcair's promise to balance the books within the first year of an NDP mandate.
"Come on,'' Chretien said to roars of approval. "Canadians, Mr. Mulcair, know how to add.''
Trudeau has said a Liberal government would run deficits until 2019 while increasing infrastructure spending in a bid to spur economic growth.
While the NDP are expected to release a fully costed accounting of their promises before Thursday's leaders' debate, Trudeau declined to say when the Liberals will do the same.
"There's an awful lot of time still to go,'' he said.
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