Tom Mulcair not backing Sask. Premier Brad Wall's equalization complaint

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made his first campaign stop in Saskatchewan with a visit to a Saskatoon community centre and a brief comment on the equalization debate.

1st campaign visit to Saskatchewan for the New Democrat leader

Tom Mulcair spoke to reporters Monday at Station 20 West in Saskatoon. (CBC)

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair may not agree with with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall stance on equalization payments, but says abolishing the senate is one issue where they're on the same page.

"Premier Wall and I don't always see eye to eye, but I can tell you I have a decent working relationship with him," Mulcair told reporters in Saskatoon on Monday. 

Making his first campaign stop in the province with a visit to the city's Station 20 West community centre, Mulcair was asked about Wall's recent comments that oil-producing provinces like Saskatchewan are paying into the federal equalization program while other provinces like Quebec with hydro-electric power are major beneficiaries.

In response, Mulcair didn't wade too deeply into the equalization debate. He didn't shoot down Wall's approach, but he didn't agree, either. 

"It's constitutionalized, it's complex, it does require an open discussion and I don't want to set one [province] against the other," Muclair said.

He noted both he and Wall believe the Senate should be abolished.

'Dutch disease' comment got Wall riled

Wall, whose Saskatchewan Party beat the provincial NDP the last two elections, has previously noted he and Mulcair have different views on the oilsands, pipelines and the Western Canada's resource-based economy. 

In particular, Wall took issue in 2013 with the term "Dutch disease" Mulcair used in a interview to describe the impact high oil prices could have boosting the Canadian dollar and depressing the manufacturing sector.

On Monday, Mulcair said he seeks to have a good relationship with all premiers. It he's elected, he will sit down with provincial leaders to discuss health care funding, pharmacare and other issues, he said.

Saskatoon has no NDP incumbents, but party hopeful

Meanwhile, the New Democrats failed to win any Saskatchewan seats in the 2011 election, but the party is optimistic it will do better this time.

One change political experts say could work in the NDP's favour is a new riding map, which does away with most of Regina's and Saskatoon's hybrid (urban-rural) ridings, in favour of all-urban seats. 

After the Saskatoon appearance, Mulcair will be heading to B.C., where he has a event scheduled in Penticton.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made his first campaign appearance in Saskatchewan on Aug.11, while Conservative Leader Stephen Harper arrived a day later.

When Harper was asked about Wall's equalization concerns, he said Wall should be more concerned about the federal NDP's policies, not equalization.

Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 19.

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