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Coalition would sow instability, Harper warns new Canadians

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks to a predominantly South Asian audience in Brampton, Ont., on March 27, 2011.


Stephen Harper journeyed to his arch-rivals' stronghold in the Greater Toronto area Sunday, seeking votes by warning new Canadians the Liberals would form a coalition and upend the stability that had drawn them to this country.

The GTA, rich with immigrant communities, will play a crucial role in the Conservative Leader's latest bid for a majority government.

"People who live in Brampton, Mississauga, Etobicoke: You have come to this country from the world over because you believe in this country," Mr. Harper told a crowd of about 700 at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, Ont.

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The audience was almost entirely of South Asian origin and Mr. Harper was introduced by Jason Kenney who, as Immigration Minister, has been the king of Conservative outreach to new Canadians.

Mr. Harper said Canada is a relative oasis of calm, compared to "disaster in the Pacific and chaos in the Middle East," and said he believed new Canadians wanted to avoid the upset in other countries.

"People like this ... they don't want members of Parliament who are going to be part of an Ignatieff government put in office by the NDP and Bloc Québécois even if they don't win the election," Mr. Harper said.

His rally, featuring GTA candidates, took place in the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton, currently held by Liberal MP Gurbax Malhi.

All around the area are Liberals being targeted for defeat by the Tories, including Brampton-Springdale's Ruby Dhalla, who only won her seat in 2008 by 773 votes. Also next door is the riding of Vaughan where the Tories achieved a breakthrough in a 2010 by-election that elected a star candidate to office.

The 41st general election campaign is the fourth time Mr. Harper has led his Conservatives into a national vote. While he's won power in the last two ballots, the Tory Leader has repeatedly been denied a majority.

This time Mr. Harper's party is targeting seats in the GTA in their quest for at least 155 seats in the Commons, the minimum number necessary to control the House. When the Tories were defeated in a no-confidence motion Friday they held 143 seats, 12 short of the magic number.

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With their prospects of political growth in Quebec believed to be weak, the Conservatives must look elsewhere in Canada. And that's why they've turned their attention to ridings that ring the city of Toronto between Brampton and Ajax.

Tories believe the so-called 905 belt is ripe with opportunity because it is home to about 10 seats that the Liberal incumbents won with 45 per cent of the vote or less in the 2008 election.

Conservative hopes were buoyed in last November's by-election when former Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino narrowly won the riding of Vaughan, previously held for more than a decade by the Liberals. To help boost his chances of retaining the seat, Mr. Fantino was handed the junior cabinet post of Minister of State for Seniors in early 2011.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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