WATERLOO, Ont. — The Conservatives are growing increasingly concerned Canadians aren't hearing their message about the risks of a Liberal government, so party leader Stephen Harper Monday rang a bell to wake them up.
Harper departed from his usual stump speech for a rare bit of political theatre to demonstrate what his party sees as the impact to Canadians should the Liberals form government next week — thousands of dollars yanked right out of their wallets.
To the sound of a cash register's bell, Nicole Ropp, who works as a fitness instructor and at a cafe, tossed one $20 bill after another on the table as Harper intoned all the benefits families like hers would lose under the Liberals, including $3360 in child care benefits for their three kids and $1170 thanks to an end to income splitting.
"The Liberals have been clear this is money they will take away. As Conservatives we believe the Ropps should keep that money," Harper said at Martin's Family Fruit, an apple farm in the southwestern Ontario riding of Kitchener-Conestoga.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau denied that his party would take away the boutique tax cuts.
Ropp's family is one of millions the Conservatives has been counting on to deliver them to power next Monday. Shortly before the election, the Conservative government handed out billions in increased child care benefits to sweeten the pot.
Jan Martin, only a very distant relation to the Martin family running the fruit farm, heard Harper speak for the first time Monday, and said his message resonated for her family.
"It came through loud and clear — people are the priority and he wants to keep it that way and make it even better," she said.
But polls suggest many others may opt to cast their ballot elsewhere, and Harper's message is being drowned out amid calls for change — a notion Harper dismissed.
"In terms of change, the change we represent is moving forward with more tax cuts, with balanced budgets that means you keep the benefits you have and you can get more," he said.
"The change proposed on the other side is to go back to the era of tax hikes and deficits."
Area candidate Gary Goodyear, who has represented the riding of Cambridge for the Conservatives since 2004, acknowledged the national message may not be filtering down — but that's where the ground campaign in the coming week is essential.
"When I get into a conversation with somebody that lasts more than a 30-second sound bite, they actually understand that the best option for Canada moving forward is not to go off in the direction of say, Ontario," he said, referring to the provincial Liberal government, which has clashed with the federal Conservatives.
Conservative candidate Harold Albrecht said he was feeling confident about getting re-elected in the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga, which he's held since 2006.
"Across Canada there is a different mood this time for sure but I've heard very strong support at the doors, I'm not worried about the riding at all."
While some Conservative seats in southwestern Ontario are believed to be secure, Harper's appearance in the region Monday was an acknowledgment that not all are, including the riding of Kitchener-Centre, currently held by Stephen Woodworth.
Woodworth, who was at Harper's event, has been an outspoken voice in the Conservatives on controversial issues like abortion.
Woodworth and Albrecht also both attended an anti-abortion protest on Parliament Hill earlier this year which took as its theme the recent Supreme Court ruling that argued people have a right under certain circumstances to ask a physician for help ending their life.
The divisive issue is one of the first a new government will have to deal with — the timeline set by the court for the creation of a new law is by next February.
When asked Monday whether he believed people should have the right as stated by the top court, Harper didn't answer, pointing instead to the ongoing work by the panel appointed by his government to examine the court decision and recommend a legal way forward.
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