Stephen Harper campaign stops in Winnipeg, promises jobs

A crowd of federal Conservative candidates were on hand at a Winnipeg campaign stop for party leader Stephen Harper at Bison Transport on Tuesday.
Stephen Harper talks with supporters as well as staff at Bison Transport in Winnipeg on Tuesday, where he made a job announcement as part of his campaign. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Stephen Harper's campaign returned to Winnipeg on Tuesday with promises to fix the "fragile Canadian economy" and create 1.3 million net new jobs by 2020.

After stumbling through the pronunciation of some names of Manitoba Conservative candidates, Harper warned the wrong decisions in next month's election "will cause real economic damage everywhere, including here in the Winnipeg area."

An NDP or Liberal government would "take money out of your pockets and destroy the economy," he said, going on to criticize "reckless, dangerous promises that will drive up taxes and kill jobs, including in Winnipeg."

"Friends, that is not our Conservative vision for this country," Harper said, touting instead his party's plan, which includes balanced budgets, a 20 per cent cut to payroll taxes and a permanent home renovation tax credit.

With those initiatives in place, an achievable target of 1.3 million jobs by 2020 is realistic, Harper said, adding he anticipates those new jobs would be mostly full time and in the private sector.

He highlighted projects in Winnipeg as examples of his government's infrastructure investments that have led to job creation, such as the convention centre expansion, Plessis Road and Waverley Street underpasses, and the Red River Floodway expansion.

The pro-Conservative crowd at Bison Transport included a number of Tory candidates — Saint Boniface-Saint Vital candidate François Catellier, Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) and Allie Szarkiewicz (Winnipeg Centre).

Catellier's and Toet's ridings are Conservative, but they face some tough competition from the Liberals and NDP.

Catellier isn't well-known in the riding, said political scientist Raymond Hébert, professor emeritus of political science from the Université de Saint-Boniface.

"It's a minus for the campaign, Shelly [Glover] was very well-known in the riding," Hébert said.

Glover won the former Liberal stronghold in 2008 and was re-elected as St. Boniface's MP in 2011 with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Glover was Manitoba's regional minister and Canada's heritage minister. She announced last April that she was not seeking re-election so she could spend more time with her family.

The Conservative Party's national website said Catellier is a father and grandfather who runs an international marketing business. He was not available for an interview on Monday. 

He also dropped out of a St. Boniface-St. Vital all-candidates radio show slated for Wednesday morning on CBC's Information Radio.

Hébert said relatively unknown rookie candidates, such as Catellier, need to do more to get their names out there.

"I think it does matter relative to the other two candidates because the other two candidates are high-profile and one of them, Dan Vandal, is well known in [St. Boniface-St. Vital]," he said.

"But you can't count the Tories out. If there's a three-way vote split, then the Tory might come in."

Hébert added that having Catellier by Harper's side will be a boost for the Tory campaign.

"It will play to the base. I think they'll be happy to see Harper there," Hébert said.

In August, Harper was the first federal party leader to come to Manitoba since the election campaign officially started.

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Saint Boniface-Saint Vital voter Elvira Lausman, 32, voted for Glover in 2011. Lausman said she'd be more likely to vote for Glover again, but now with her out of the race, she's not sure.

"I'm really on the fence. Last election I knew where I wanted to lie," she said.

Lausman was aware of NDP candidate Erin Selby and Liberal candidate Dan Vandal, but she had never even heard the Conservative candidate's name before.

"You want to be able to know and relate to whoever's going to be in your riding, and without knowing if this is someone who has kids, or is interested, what they want to bring to the community, how they want to develop things, it's a really hard go," Lausman said. 

Allan Jones also lives in the riding and plans to vote Conservative again, though he admits he doesn't know Catellier.

"No, it doesn't matter," Jones said. "It's the policy of the party in the first place. I think when it gets closer, I'll find out a little bit more about them, but I vote mostly party line."

Matthew Dyck, a 21-year-old first-time federal voter in the riding, said he's voting for anyone but the Conservatives. He said there's nothing that Catellier or Harper could do to win his support, but he's been unimpressed with all his local candidates. 

"I haven't seen much of what they're running on," Dyck said. "I haven't seen them interacting in the areas that I'm involved with in the community. So, I'm a little disillusioned with that."

Two other Winnipeg Conservative MPs are not seeking re-election: Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) and Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul).

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris Glover has been a reporter, anchor and producer with CBC News for a decade. He’s an award winning storyteller, who has travelled the country in search of fascinating characters with compelling stories to share on TV, radio and online. A series he helped spearhead at CBC Toronto, No Fixed Address, won a national RTDNA award in 2017 and the municipal election special he anchored in 2018 was just nominated for an RTDNA award for best live special.


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