THERESA OSWALD called racism "our provincial shame" on the campaign trail Sunday, becoming the latest to respond to the black eye Maclean's magazine dealt Winnipeg by calling it the most racist city in the country.

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THERESA OSWALD called racism "our provincial shame" on the campaign trail Sunday, becoming the latest to respond to the black eye Maclean's magazine dealt Winnipeg by calling it the most racist city in the country.

In a campaign announcement about programs aimed at making university and college education more affordable, Oswald reserved her harshest criticism for comments attributed to Conservative Leader Brian Pallister in response to the magazine piece.

"I want to say I'm quite troubled by the leader of the Opposition Mr. Pallister's comments that I read where he took issue about whether or not racism exists here in our province. Absolutely it does. It's a provincial shame for all of us and we have to find a way to work together and find our way out," Oswald said.

"If we don't acknowledge racism exists in our city and our province, we don't have a hope of coming together to fix it."

Pallister rejected the assertion by the Toronto-based Maclean's Friday.

"I would object to that observation... it's not my experience," Pallister said, noting the province has hosted people from around the world throughout its history.

"We here in Winnipeg and Manitoba understand what it's like to extend our arms to people from all ethnic backgrounds and racial backgrounds as well," the Conservative leader said.

Oswald's comments came during a campaign announcement on the University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, where she faced cameras with 18 university students lined up behind her.

Health studies student Dale Kujanpaa, 21, told reporters, "My hopes and dreams can't become a reality unless we have a government and a premier that makes post-secondary support a major priority."

Oswald wants to expand interest-free student loans to part-time students. Part-time students make up one in four enrolled in university and college, but up to now, the option of no-interest loans has been available only to full-time students. She said she would restore multi-year funding agreements with post-secondary institutions to stabilize budget planning.

"Last year we removed that from legislation," she said, calling the decision "an error."

Oswald pledged to work with universities to make textbooks and other education resources more affordable and to expand Access grants for under-represented groups including northerners, single parents, aboriginal people, refugees and people with disabilities.

She said if she were elected NDP leader and became premier, the city's rapid transit would be guaranteed provincial funding for the U-Pass student transit proposal.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca