Stephen Harper zings Manitoba's NDP government during Winnipeg campaign stop

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made a jab at Manitoba's NDP government for raising taxes, but added that the provincial party is "pretty mainstream" compared to the federal New Democrats.

But provincial NDP 'pretty mainstream' compared to federal counterpart, says Conservative leader

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks to party supporters at Canad Inns in Winnipeg during a campaign stop Thursday afternoon. (CBC)

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made a jab at Manitoba's NDP government for raising taxes, but added that the provincial party is "pretty mainstream" compared to the federal New Democrats.

Harper made the remark while speaking to Conservative Party supporters at Canad Inns Polo Park in Winnipeg on Thursday afternoon.

During his campaign speech, Harper took aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for being "just not ready" and at NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for proposing high spending and high taxes.

"Raising taxes is in the DNA of the NDP, as you in this province know well," Harper told the crowd.

"But actually, to be fair, it's actually pretty mainstream here compared to the federal NDP."

The Manitoba government's increase of the PST from seven to eight per cent in 2013 raised the ire of many in the province and was partly responsible for a cabinet revolt and leadership contest that almost cost Premier Greg Selinger his job.

Harper was the first of the federal leaders to stop in Manitoba since the campaign was officially launched on Aug. 2.

The Conservative leader spoke on a range of topics, from the universal child-care benefit to the fight against ISIS.

As well, he touted local infrastructure projects such as the Waverley Street underpass and Centreport Canada Way.

He was introduced at the beginning of the event by Joyce Bateman, the Conservative incumbent in Winnipeg South Centre, and Gordon Giesbrecht, the party's candidate in Winnipeg South.

Manitoba political analyst Christopher Adams says Harper is likely trying to boost support in Manitoba, with four ridings of concern to the Conservatives: Elmwood-Transcona, Winnipeg South, Winnipeg South Centre and Saint Boniface–St. Vital.

"Those four ridings are really in play and there's a very, very marked possibility that that could swing away from the Conservatives, all four of them," Adams said.

Some people were turned away

At least two people tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the tightly controlled invite-only campaign event.

Leah Gazan, a University of Winnipeg professor and an advocate for missing and murdered aboriginal women, says she was not allowed in because she's not a card-carrying Conservative Party member.

"I wanted to ask the prime minister, as an indigenous woman, why we are not on his radar in terms of the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada," Gazan said.

When asked about being denied entry into the rally, she replied, "I think it shows how closed this government has been in terms of transparency with the Canadian public."

Trudeau, who made a campaign-style stop in Winnipeg on July 22-23, accused Harper on Thursday of not doing enough to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and other Canadians.


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