Published | PubliÃ©: 2015-01-15
Received | ReÃ§u: 2015-01-15 12:44 PM
Kelsey Johnson - Ontario
With an election no more than nine months away, a political battle between the New Democrats and the federal Conservatives is brewing in Western Canada, the party's House leader said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Peter Julian said the New Democrats are preparing to target pockets of Western Canada, particularly in British Columbia and Saskatchewan - two provinces where the party feels it can make major political gains.
"It's largely a Conservative-NDP fight across Western Canada, particularly in British Columbia where you've got Conservatives trying to impose a pipeline like Northern Gateway even though most British Columbians profoundly reject that," Julian said.
British Columbia, home to Julian's Burnaby-New Westminster, is not the only western region on the NDP's political hit list, though. Thanks to riding redistribution, which separated rural ridings from urban ridings in Saskatchewan, Julian said there are now several seats up for grabs in the prairie province that went entirely blue in 2011, excepting only Liberal MP Ralph Goodale's win in Wascana.
The redistribution, Julian said, is "to the NDP's advantage."
"The historic NDP vote is no longer split off into ridings right across Saskatchewan, but concentrated. There's a half a dozen ridings in Saskatchewan where the NDP will be finishing very strongly."
The NDP has already said it plans to take the Conservatives to task over its handling of last winter's grain crisis. The logistics mess left millions of tonnes of prairie grain stranded across Western Canada for months, jeopardizing farmers' cash flow and Canada's international reputation as a reliable supplier.
As for Alberta, while most expect the Conservatives to hold onto their party stronghold in Southern Alberta, Julian said there is growing NDP support in the northern part of the province. While most of that support is at the provincial level, the New Democrat House leader said some backing was at the federal level.
"So, I think it's fair to say that across Western Canada there's a desire for change. There are a lot of Conservative MPs who we don't think have been doing the work and we've got extremely strong candidates emerging right across Western Canada," Julian said.
Julian said the party is also looking for gains in more traditional battleground like Quebec and Ontario.
"here's no doubt that if you look at Quebec there are a number of seats - Conservative and former Bloc seats and even Liberal seats - where the NDP can make some gains," he told reporters. "In Ontario, as well, we've made some major breakthroughs in the last few election campaigns.We have a strong Ontario caucus and we're looking to build on that."
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