TORONTO — Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is using his political heft to encourage voters to elect anyone but Stephen Harper, describing the prime minister as a "masterful political strategist" who is not to be trusted.
Williams weighed in on the federal election campaign Tuesday by offering up his distinct brand of animus for the prime minister, calling on conservatives to also think twice before voting along party lines.
"He's not a man of his word," Williams said in an interview from Toronto. "He doesn't keep his commitments, written or oral. I'm just basically saying to Canadians you can't trust him and he doesn't have any integrity."
Williams, who served as the province's Progressive Conservative premier from 2003 to 2010, also said Harper's position on the niqab amounts to capitalizing on "the underlying bigotry that might be in the country."
The Harper government lost its bid Tuesday to stop a woman from wearing a Muslim face covering while taking the oath of citizenship.
The Federal Court of Appeal rejected the government's request to put a recent decision in favour of Zunera Ishaq on hold while Ottawa seeks a hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada. The ruling means Ishaq might be able to take the oath and be eligible to vote on Oct. 19.
Williams said Harper is inflating the debate over face-coverings at citizenship ceremonies to distract voters from issues such as the economy or health care.
"To try and use those kinds of tactics to pit people against people in the country so that they end up voting for his party and he gets re-elected, I just think that's quite shameful," he said.
"It's one thing to get elected, but if you're going to be the prime minister of this great country of ours and show leadership, then you should be trying to unite the country, not divide it. And that's exactly what's happening."
This latest salvo comes after Williams launched his 'Anything But Conservative' campaign in 2008 after accusing Harper of breaking a promise concerning transfer payments.
The Conservative brand in the province has suffered ever since.
"Everything (Harper) stands for, I don't get it," said Williams. "I just don't understand how Canadians could put possibly put him back in as head of this country when there are other alternatives."
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