Montreal

Stephen Harper looks to win back seats in Quebec City area

Stephen Harper spent the morning in the region of Quebec best placed to give his party some new seats come Monday — the provincial capital.

Conservatives looking to gain back seats in provincial capital region

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper holds up a pile of money as he and small business owner Paul Gerth illustrate proposed Liberal tax hikes during a campaign event in Trois-Rivières, Que., on Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Stephen Harper spent the morning in the region of Quebec best placed to give his party some new seats come Monday — the provincial capital.

The Conservatives are hoping to gain back territory in the Quebec City area, where they lost ground in the last election.

At a rally, Harper tried to present his party as the one best-suited to represent the province in Ottawa.

"Don't let anyone tell you that Conservative values are not Quebec values," Harper said.

"When I come to Quebec I am regularly told that people want to save more money and pay less taxes."

Not everyone was so welcoming, however. 

Members of the social-housing advocacy group FRAPRU protested outside an announcement this morning, saying Conservatives haven't done enough to support low-income residents.

The group issued a report earlier this week detailing the federal parties' commitments to social housing, and the Conservatives finished last.

Protesters greeted Conservative Leader Stephen Harper at a campaign stop Friday morning in Quebec City. (Daniel Thibeault/Radio-Canada)
Last night, Harper appeared on a popular French-language talk show hosted by Éric Salvail, called "En mode Salvail."

He said he "rarely" appears such shows, but he joked he wanted to be as popular as Salvail. Harper also sang and played the piano as he looked to woo Quebec voters.

He also took a swipe at the Liberals after that party's campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, resigned over an ethics controversy.

"It is the old culture of the sponsorship scandal. It's not about anybody else it's about the Liberal Party," said Harper, referring to the e-mail Gagnier sent to TransCanada with advice on how to lobby a new government on the Energy East pipeline.

Can they win back seats from the NDP?

The party won 10 seats in 2006, held them in 2008 and then lost five of those seats in 2011.

Harper has insisted Quebecers will respond to his party's platform on crime and on the economy, but he added some fuel to the electoral fire ahead of the campaign by introducing a law to ban niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

The issue gained added traction thanks to a Federal Court of Appeal decision that came in September, striking down as unlawful the existing rule banning the practice.

The Conservatives are hoping the Supreme Court will hear the case.

The ban is a popular in Quebec but the NDP oppose it, one of the reasons cited for a drop in their Quebec support.

The Conservatives are looking to bleed support from the New Democrats, who won 59 seats in Quebec in 2011.

After the morning rally in Quebec City, Harper heads to Fredricton, N.B., but is expected expected to return to Quebec for one last visit on Saturday.

with files from Ryan Hicks and Canadian Press