Canada

Harper promises Toronto a place in government

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appealed to Toronto on Wednesday, playing up his childhood connection to the city and promising to take the city's concerns seriously in Ottawa

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper appealed to Toronto on Wednesday, playing up his childhood connection to the city and promising to take the city's concerns seriously in Ottawa.

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"We want Toronto to be part of the truly national government we are asking Canadians to give us," Harper said.

With a strong contingent of Toronto MPs in a Tory government, Harper said, the city can take its "real place in the centre of our government."

Calling his campaign so far one of policy and ideas, rather than the "fear and smear" presented by the Liberals, Harper pointed out that Toronto is unique among Canadian cities for its size, its diversity and its spirit.

The Toronto area, which has more than five million people, has voted Liberal for several elections. In 2004, only one seat went to another party, and it was taken by NDP Leader Jack Layton.

Harper held a rally on Wednesday in St. Paul's, the Toronto riding currently held by Liberal Carolyn Bennett. The Conservative candidate there is Peter Kent, a veteran television journalist.

Kent, who was introduced at the rally by CanWest Global executive David Asper, denounced the media as "Liberal apologists."

Riding a wave in recent polls showing his party in the national lead and making gains in traditionally Liberal areas, Harper made a pitch for votes in Canada's largest city by doing something rarely done by a Western-based politician: he called it a "great city" and promised to "stand up for Toronto."

Harper recounted his platform policies from child care to immigration, tailoring his message to the city's voters.

He also promised an official apology for the Chinese head tax and vowed to call an inquiry into the Air India bombings.