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‘We’re dedicating our efforts to Jack’

Selinger campaign a tribute to fallen leader

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THE provincial NDP want to win one for Jack.

Premier Greg Selinger declared Monday night that his party will dedicate its bid for a fourth consecutive mandate to the memory of the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton.

Although the writ has yet to be dropped, all three main political parties are holding campaign events this week for a vote that is scheduled for Oct. 4 under new fixed-election rules.

And the premier’s nomination meeting Monday evening in St. Boniface constituency — for the record, he was unopposed — had all the makings of an NDP campaign rally. There were Selinger signs, orange T-shirts and dozens of smiling candidates on stage in a small St. Boniface College lecture theatre crammed with 300 party workers chanting ‘Greg, Greg, Greg!

They erupted in a long, loud cheer when Selinger announced the party would dedicate its campaign to Layton, who died of cancer eight days ago.

"People were so inspired by his example, the values he represented," Selinger said afterwards. "He dedicated his last campaign to (former Saskatchewan premier) Al Blakeney. It’s only fitting that we return the honour to him and dedicate our efforts and energy to his memory."

Selinger will visit St. Leon, Brandon and Dauphin over the next two days. But before leaving the city this morning, he will unveil part of the party’s platform at an event at the University of Winnipeg.

"It will give you a big picture of where we’re going," Selinger said of the announcement Monday night. "You’ll see quite a bit of substance there."

Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives will launch their ‘McFadyen 2011 campaign kick-off" at the Viscount Gort Hotel late this afternoon. The Conservative rally will showcase the candidates that the party hopes will vault it into power for the first time since 1999.

And on Wednesday, the Manitoba Liberals, led by Jon Gerrard, will make their first platform announcement — on youth issues — as Quebec Liberal MP Justin Trudeau comes to town.

Earlier Monday, a pair of NDP stalwarts took aim at a portion of the Conservative party’s election platform, obtained by the Free Press and published in Monday’s newspaper.

One of the PC planks is to balance the province’s books by 2018 — four years later than promised by the NDP — to ensure there are no new tax increases or program cuts. The Tories are sensitive to being branded as program cutters. Last week, Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen admitted that the Conservatives under Gary Filmon, went too far in some of their 1990s budget cuts. He said he would not repeat those mistakes if elected Oct. 4.

At a news conference called to unveil a new election TV ad, Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard made it plain that the NDP will use every opportunity to tie McFadyen, a former Filmon aide, to that administration’s tough deficit-cutting decisions.

"I think it shows that Mr. McFadyen will say anything for power," Mackintosh said of the Tories’ deficit pledge. "Manitobans have built-in crap detectors and I think he’s toying with the wrong people."

Howard said that only 18 months ago, the Conservatives proposed cutting a half billion dollars from the provincial budget — an act, she said, that would have devastated health care and education programs. The Tories said their proposed budget amendment was not to cut a half a billion dollars in one fell swoop, as the NDP continually allege, but to shorten the time needed to balance the books from the five years proposed by the government to two years.

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