NDP Leader Jack Layton took his campaign to northwestern Ontario on Tuesday evening, where he pledged to Thunder Bay residents that he would fight to protect their jobs and attacked the Conservative government's record on aboriginal issues.

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NDP Leader Jack Layton made a campaign stop in Regina early Tuesday before heading to northwestern Ontario. ((CBC))

Speaking at a town hall meeting, Layton lambasted Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in Canadian manufacturing.

"Harper boasts that he has handed out $50 billion in corporate tax giveaways to the very companies that have laid you off and moved your jobs overseas," Layton said. "That's not the right leadership."

The former Toronto city councillor said his party would end corporate tax cuts for companies "who don't need them," handing the money instead to businesses that are coming up with environmental innovations.

Several mill workers who attended Layton's event, however, said they were deceived into showing up after having been sent an e-mail that announced the meeting but didn't explain it was a political rally.

"I got an email from the [Canadian Energy and Paperworkers Union] stating that it concerned our severance and [employment insurance] and I thought it was maybe some training issues," said one former sawmill worker at the local Ukrainian centre where the meeting was held.

At least four others who preferred not to be identified said the same thing.  

In response, the NDP released a statement that blamed the confusion on "a local union member" who sent an invitation to some of his friends.

"The e-mail apparently failed to mention that it was a partisan event, and a handful of people showed up unaware of the nature of the event," said Karl Belanger, the NDP's campaign spokesman.

"Even though we had no part in sending this invitation, we are sorry for any inconvenience it may have caused."

Honour obligations to aboriginals: Layton

Earlier in the afternoon, Layton criticized the Conservative government's treatment of First Nations, saying Ottawa has to come up with a better way of treating aboriginal people with respect.

"It certainly requires the federal government to honour the obligations that were set out in the treaties that were signed so many years ago," Layton said on the CBC Radio program Voyage North.

"And certainly we can see that isn't happening now with the lack of funding for education and housing in some of these communities, and the terrible situations that so many young people are having to live in."

The NDP won two of Northern Ontario's 10 ridings in the last federal election in 2006, but came within a few percentage points of winning several others from the Liberals.

Layton said he is focusing his attacks during the Oct. 14 federal election campaign on Harper and not Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion because he wants the current prime minister out of office.

But he heaped scorn on the Liberals for acquiescing in a series of parliamentary votes that allowed the Conservative minority government to remain in power for more than 2½ years.

With files from the Canadian Press