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Harper wows 'em in North Bay (UPDATED)

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with a cute baby during a campaign stop in North Bay. Photo by Tim Salidas.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with a cute baby during a campaign stop in North Bay. Photo by Tim Salidas.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper denies he will cut FedNor if elected Canada’s next prime minister June 28.

Harper made the statement today while on a campaign stop in North Bay, at the Clarion Resort Pinewood Park.

Examine their mandates
Sault Ste. Marie Liberal MP Carmen Provenzano had said during a recent debate in his city that if the Conservatives were elected “FedNor is gone.”

But Harper said that wasn’t the case.

“Contrary to some reports I’ve never proposed eliminating regional development agencies, but what we are proposing is to examine their mandates,” Harper said, during a news conference with local and national media.

“I want to see those agencies focus on public investment in public infrastructure developments and coordinating those with market opportunities.”

What Harper wants to get agencies such as FedNor out of, he said, “is providing subsidies to companies for picking winners and losers.”

“We prefer to have a lower tax environment, but we don’t rule out by any means having regional agencies to coordinate federal priorities in areas outside of central Canada.”

Major election issue
Prior to the media conference Harper spoke to about 400 people who overflowed out of a banquet room at the hotel.

Harper said accountability had fast become the major election issue in light of the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

“We want to find out what they’ve done with our money, what they’re doing to our country, and the real issue of this campaign is accountability and accountability for their shameful record in the handling of our dollars,” Harper said.

“They’ve come to believe they can take Ontario for granted, they’ve come to believe they can take Northern Ontario for granted, come to believe they can take North Bay for granted. We’ve got to tell Paul Martin and the Liberals that ‘Canada doesn’t belong to you, Ontario doesn’t belong to you North Bay doesn’t belong to you, and our money doesn’t belong to you.’”

Incestuous relationship
In the Liberals’ “grasping, groping attempts” to hang on to power, Harper said, the party has been running “yet another series of vicious attack ads.”

“They’re going to do this ladies and gentlemen to try to get Canadians to forget about their record of waste, mismanagement and scandal,” Harper said.

“But I put it to you that every time Canadians see those ads they will be reminded of Adscam and the incestuous relationship between the Liberals and certain advertising companies.”

Suspect arrangements
Harper also said the Liberals had commissioned an internal audit “to find out how much illegal sponsorship cash ended up in Liberal bank accounts.

“Back in May, Jean Lapierre said the accounting on suspect arrangements was done. Two nights ago at the debates Paul Martine said an extensive report had been prepared,” Harper said.

“But yesterday Paul Martin said he couldn’t release the report because it wasn’t ready. Where is the report Mr Martin? Canadians want to know, Canadians deserve answers, Canadians deserve the truth and Canadians deserve better.”

Truly independent
If elected the Conservative Party priorities, Harper said, will be “a better economy, better health care, better communities, better security and better accountability.”

“We will start with better accountability to ensure scandals like the sponsorship scandal can never happen again. We will be put into place a truly independent ethics commissioner and we will give new powers and new resources to the auditor general,” Harper said.

“We’ll l bring back accountability to government because we’ll also bring democratic reform to this country, beginning with our Senate. Anyone who sits in the Senate of Canada must be elected.”

Free vote
The Conservatives would also allow its elected representatives to vote freely “unlike the Liberal party,” and a Conservative government, Harper said, will put the definition of marriage to such a free vote.

“It will be voted on first by the people you elect, not by the judges in the Supreme court,” Harper said to thunderous applause.

Sole objective
Harper said the Conservatives are fighting a government “whose sole objective is to create a legacy for its leaders.”

“Our vision has to be to create a future for our families. Our campaign is about reaching out to all Canadians and providing them with hope,” Harper said.

“Paul Martin and the Liberal arguments for staying in power are about nothing other than generating fear. They say that only their values are Canadian.”

That, Harper said, “is typical Liberal arrogance.”

“I say you do not have to be a Liberal to be a Canadian.”