Mulcair blames Harper for East-West divisions

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair told a crowd of provincial New Democrats gathered for a party convention in Winnipeg on Saturday that he isn't pitting Canada's East against the West.

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he isn't pitting Canada's East against the West, in prepared remarks to provincial New Democrats gathered for a party convention in Winnipeg on Saturday.

"Those are Stephen Harper's battle lines," Mulcair said on his last day of a three-day tour of the Prairies. "Not mine."

Mulcair's controversial "Dutch Disease" comments unleashed a fury of reaction from federal Conservatives and western premiers alike who called his comments "divisive", "goofy" and intended to divide the country.

The NDP leader dismissed the premiers' criticism by calling them "messengers" for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Since then, Mulcair did not repeat his comment about the premiers but has stood by his theory that the Canadian dollar is being held "artificially high" by the oilsands causing the economy harm in other parts of the country.

During a heated exchange in question period, Conservative cabinet minister James Moore called on Mulcair to apologize for "suggesting the strength of the western Canadian economy is a disease on Canada."

Conservatives have maintained all along that the success of Alberta's oilsands have brought dividends not just to the Prairies but to the rest of the country as well.

In prepared remarks to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and his New Democrats, Mulcair said Harper's "failed environmental policies" are having "serious" economic consequences.

Environment Minister Peter Kent has said that the changes in the government's budget bill are merely intended to update "decade-old" environmental laws.

But in Saturday's prepared remarks, the Official Opposition leader blamed what he called the prime minister's "handouts to a few favoured industries" for an artificial rise in the value of the Canadian dollar.

"An artificially high dollar makes our exports more expensive. That's just simple economics," he said.

While in Alberta on Thursday, Mulcair said his beef was with the federal government and not the premiers.

On Saturday, Mulcair sided with Selinger and other premiers who have accused Ottawa of not consulting with them on issues like health funding, immigration reform, and employment insurance.

"Without a single consultation, the Conservatives are short-changing provinces by a whopping $31 billion," he said.

However, Conservative cabinet ministers like Diane Finley and Peter Mackay, who are responsible for touting the benefits of the government's latest budget, have said that they consulted with Canadians "extensively."

In a written statement to CBC News on Saturday, Andrew MacDougall, director of communications for the prime minister said, "Mulcair has it exactly backwards.

"The prime minister is governing for all regions while Mulcair slags premiers and tries to pit province against province," said MacDougall.

Mulcair said the federal New Democrats would create more jobs, promote sustainable development and protect the services that Canadians rely on in an effort to defeat the Conservatives in 2015.

The three-day tour saw the NDP leader visiting Alberta's oil sands on Thursday and meeting some of Canada's city mayors in Saskatoon on Friday.