Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said the governing New Democrats "deserve, perhaps, to be afraid" as the Tories prepare for this spring's election campaign with a training session for candidates this weekend.
The event brought about 300 people, including the Tories' full slate of 57 candidates, to Winnipeg to learn about outreach, policy research, team spirit-building and community event participation.
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The PCs say their slate of candidates, which was finalized on Friday, includes teachers, health-care professionals, social workers, small business owners, farmers, military members and others.
Pallister addressed the enthusiastic crowd during a part of the training session that was open to media on Saturday afternoon.
"We are putting before the people of Manitoba the finest slate of 57 fine, super-dedicated, hardworking, honest, capable and compassionate candidates — the finest slate this province has ever seen," Pallister said to applause before he asked the candidates to stand up.
"The NDP is afraid. And they deserve, perhaps, to be afraid," he later told the crowd.
Pallister targeted NDP Leader Greg Selinger's first television ad of the campaign, which the PC leader described as a public apology campaign.
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In the ad, Selinger highlights the party's accomplishments and notes that although it has made mistakes, his government has always had Manitobans' "best interest in mind."
Pallister said Selinger should be apologizing to many groups of Manitobans, from cottage owners to veterans to those facing unemployment.
"Greg needs more time to do this apology thing properly and he doesn't have the time over the next 7½ weeks," he said.
"He doesn't have enough time to do a sincere apology to all the people in this province that he and his party have hurt so badly…. He doesn't have the time to be premier of Manitoba and apologize at the same time."
The Tories' campaign is being headed up by David McLaughlin, who served as chief of staff to former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and former Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty.
McLaughlin delivered a speech to candidates after the event's doors were closed to media.
Pallister said having the full roster ready now, while other parties are still working on nominations, has created both an advantage and a challenge for the PCs.
"For some of our candidates, they've put their lives on hold for quite a while," he told reporters.
"It's been a challenge with being able to balance the work we need to do as candidates and real life."
Manitobans will go to the polls on April 19.