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Harper woos Quebeckers with pledge to move key federal agency

Stephen and Laureen Harper board the Conservative campaign plane in Ottawa on April 14, 2011.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Stephen Harper is pledging that a Conservative government would move the administrative offices of the federal Quebec development agency out of Liberal-held Montreal and into "the regions," where the Conservatives hope to make gains.

Speaking in the Quebec City region, where most of the party's seats in Quebec are clustered, Mr. Harper said Thursday that Quebeckers outside the province's largest city "want the decisions regarding their economic development to be made in their region."

The Conservative Leader did not say which particular region would receive the new headquarters of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Quebec, but the location of the announcement will doubtless encourage those in the Quebec City area to believe that they might benefit from the largesse.

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The announcement came on Mr. Harper's second visit to the Quebec City region since the election campaign began and his fifth to the province.

Beaupré is located in a riding held by the Bloc Québécois, but where the Conservatives came second in 2008. Despite refusing to help fund an arena for the provincial capital, while promising loan guarantees for an underwater hydro cable from Labrador to Newfoundland and the Maritimes - a sore point with hydro-proud Quebeckers - the Conservatives continue to hold out hope that they can not only retain the 11 seats they hold in the province, most of them in and around Quebec City, but perhaps add a few as well in ridings outside Montreal.

Those hopes have dimmed during the campaign, as Conservative support in the province hovers far below that of the Bloc and in the same territory as the other national parties.

The announcement was the first campaign stop for Mr. Harper, after a strong performance in the English-language debate Tuesday but a much weaker performance in Wednesday's French-language contest.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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