EDMONTON — Tom Mulcair rubbed shoulders with Alberta's new NDP premier late Friday, clearly hoping a little electoral magic would rub off as the federal campaign roared into its final weekend.
Rachel Notley's surprise victory in the Conservative heartland has made New Democrats heads swim and was even credited by pundits with setting in motion the federal party's rise in the polls last spring, an ascent that was only checked last month.
Opening for Mulcair in their first appearance together in the federal campaign, Notley drew on the skepticism that greeted her campaign as she took on the decades-long provincial Conservative rule.
"Just a few months ago here in Alberta, we faced a tired Conservative government, dogged by scandals and determined to cut public services," she told New Democrat supporters at an evening rally. "A Conservative government that wanted Albertans to think there was no other choice. A Conservative government that wanted all of us to think that change wasn't possible and that Albertans weren't ready for that change. Well, my friends, Albertans proved them wrong about that."
Notley said, although she has a responsibility to work with whoever forms the next government, "it is time to elect Tom Mulcair as our next prime minister."
For his part, the federal NDP leader heaped praise on the premier, saying her recent proposals to combat climate change drew international plaudits and made the country proud.
"They said we could never win in Quebec, but our friend Jack Layton proved them wrong,'' said Mulcair. "They said we'd never win in Alberta, but with Rachel Notley, you all proved them wrong.''
If the second half of the day was about defying expectations, the first half was about reminding voters in Quebec of the Conservative government's record on protecting public safety.
Mulcair got a first-hand look Friday at a new Lac-Megantic as it rises from the ashes of the train derailment that devastated the town in 2013.
With three days left until Monday's vote, the party was hoping the rural Quebec visit will be a reminder of the regulatory and safety failures that allowed an unattended, oil-laden train to careen uncontrolled into the heart of the town and explode, killing 47 people.
An NDP government would seek to reverse the Conservative-driven trend towards allowing industries with a direct impact on public safety _ food inspection and railways in particular _to self-regulate, Mulcair said.
"Government has to begin playing a more proactive role in protecting the public," he said. "There's nothing more essential than protecting the public, in all of the things that governments do.''
Asked whether it wouldn't be more sensible to expedite pipeline projects like Energy East to better protect the public from oil-carrying tanker cars, Mulcair blamed the Conservative government for gutting environmental protections, helping to make it difficult for such projects to proceed.
Mulcair is also hammering away at the Liberals over the resignation of campaign co-chairman Dan Gagnier, who gave TransCanada Corp. advice on who in a new government they should lobby about the Energy East pipeline.
He accused Justin Trudeau of changing his story about when and how much he knew about Gagnier's activity before it became public.
The Liberals are only ever interested in "paving the way for themselves," he said.
"Anybody who thought that things would change with the Liberals better think again."
Mulcair wouldn't say whether he'd investigated the activities of his own staff, including campaign co-chair Brad Lavigne, who is no longer a federal registered lobbyist, but is still signed up with the province of Ontario.
The Ontario Lobbyist Registry shows Lavigne was arranging meetings for the Canadian Fuel Association and Just East Energy Ontario as late as three weeks ago.
Lavigne, who had worked for the lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton, insisted Friday that the information on the Ontario registry is a mistake and that he deregistered and quit the firm in May.
He also claimed that the fuel association reference is incorrect and that he only worked for the organization briefly on a short-term contract last year.
"What we are talking about is what Mr. Gagnier was doing during this campaign," Mulcair said.
"It was Monday of this week that Dan Gagnier was working for and on behalf of TransCanada on the Energy East pipeline. That's what we're talking about here today."
Gagnier resigned from the Liberal campaign this week after The Canadian Press revealed an email that showed he was giving advice to TransCanada about how to get Energy East approved.
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