The Manitoba Liberals would encourage buy-local policies among citizens and government if elected, a move one opponent called "risky and counterproductive" to free trade.

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The Manitoba Liberals would encourage buy-local policies among citizens and government if elected, a move one opponent called "risky and counterproductive" to free trade.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont made his latest campaign pledge on the south lawn of the legislative grounds Friday, announcing his party would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a province-wide advertising campaign to boost local spending.

Lamont estimated the campaign's cost could be comparable with what the province spent on advertising about cannabis-related health concerns — about $350,000 — but wouldn't exceed $1 million. He would want to see if such a campaign could be cost-shared with local chambers of commerce.

"It's one of these things where, essentially, it's an innovative program, so you have a goal, and it would be great if we could double sales as much as possible," he said.

He recommended Manitobans take vacations within the province and shop at local businesses, noting some of his favourites are The Crusty Bun, McNally Robinson and La Belle Baguette.

Lamont also pledged to make procurement practices more accessible for Manitoba companies, helping them do business with government. The Liberals would set a to-be-determined target percentage for the number of government contracts awarded locally.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>The Crusty Bun was mentioned by Lamont as an example of a local business people could patron during staycations or vacationing within the province.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Crusty Bun was mentioned by Lamont as an example of a local business people could patron during staycations or vacationing within the province.

Lamont accused the Progressive Conservative government of relying too often on out-of-province consultants and companies.

"The fact is, the provinces in Canada that have the most efforts to protect their own businesses and look after their own businesses and promote them are 'have' provinces," he said, pointing to British Columbia and Alberta as examples.

"The ones with the least amount of protections are 'have-nots.' So part of this is just to say, look: if the Manitoba government isn't willing to be a customer in investment in local businesses, who is?"

Responding to the announcement, PC Midland MLA Blaine Pedersen (who is also the minister responsible for growth, enterprise and trade until the writ drops on the Sept. 10 provincial election) said the Liberals' "feel-good scheme" is short-sighted and may run afoul of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement.

"Creating new trade barriers and internal ‘fiefdoms’ would be a risky and counterproductive move," Pedersen said in a prepared statement. "To grow and succeed, Manitoba businesses need access to markets across Canada and abroad. We know Manitoba businesses can compete with anyone in the world."

NDP Leader Wab Kinew didn't dismiss the idea, but said he has other priorities.

"As someone who loves to shop local, I know a strong business community has to be part of Manitoba's future. An advertising campaign could be one step, but the NDP is focused on creating good jobs, keeping education accessible and fixing health care," he said in a prepared statement.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu