Manitoba New Democrats are again telling voters to be afraid of a hidden agenda by the Progressive Conservatives in the leadup to the Oct. 4 provincial election.

NDP leader Greg Selinger used a campaign stop to accuse the Tories and leader Hugh McFadyen of having a secret plan to privatize Manitoba Hydro — a suggestion the Tories have consistently denied.

"Manitobans are saying that Hydro is too important to put in the hands of the PCs. And in particular it's too important to put in the hands of Mr. McFadyen," Selinger told supporters at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

'I'll eat that microphone on national television if anybody privatizes Manitoba Hydro.'—John McCallum, Asper School of Business professor

One political analyst said Selinger's New Democrats are adopting a strategy similar to that of the federal Conservatives. Paul Thomas from the University of Manitoba said the NDP is trying to define McFadyen in the public's mind.

That's what the federal Tories did with former Liberal leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion, Thomas said.

Negative advertising generally works, but can backfire if voters decide the ads are too nasty or too personal, he said.

John McCallum, a former chair of Hydro, and now a professor at the Asper School of Business, said it's frustrating something no Manitoba government would do has become a political football.

"There is absolutely no chance literally for the indefinite foreseeable future that anybody can think of that this place will be privatized. I'll eat that microphone on national television if anybody privatizes Manitoba Hydro," he said.

But University of Manitoba economist Fletcher Baragar said selling off assets is a tool any government under pressure has at its disposal.

"What's important is to have a public that's well informed about the role that a Crown corporation can play, has played, and could conceiveably play in the future," he said.