05/22/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT

Federal Election 2015: Harper Targets Quebec Riding Lost In 2011

OTTAWA - Among the seats the NDP captured in Quebec during the last election was a riding won by only nine votes — and the Conservatives want it back.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper headed to the community of Berthier-sur-Mer, Que., Friday, a small town of roughly 1,400 people best known for the nearby Grosse Ile National Historic Site.

But politically, the town's electoral district of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup is famous for being the final Tory seat to fall to the NDP during the 2011 federal election.

The vote count on election night put the New Democrats' Francois Lapointe up by just five votes, forcing a recount which 10 days later declared him the winner by nine.

Lapointe is running again in this October's campaign and so is the Conservative he beat — Bernard Genereux, who was spotted at Harper's event Friday.

The riding is part of the so-called Blue Arrow, a swath of seats running from around Quebec City down to the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, which the Conservatives see as fertile ground to expand their existing crop of only five MPs from the province.

The Conservatives won Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup in a 2009 by-election prompted by the resignation of the Bloc Quebecois MP who had held it since 1993.

But the New Democrats pushed the Tories out again in 2011, thanks to the surge of support in that province that catapulted their party to official Opposition status.

Recent polls suggest the New Democrats still hold a lead in support in Quebec, with the Liberals in second place, though Conservatives continue to see gains as well.

"I don't comment on polls as you know, they come and go," Harper told reporters Friday.

"But what I will say is this, that the choices for voters in the next campaign are going to be fairly stark."

Harper said he sees the two big issues as the economy and security, both files he has addressed on this Quebec swing.

On Friday he laid out the details for a tourism program aimed at getting more U.S. visitors to Canada, while in Montreal on Thursday he fleshed out a commitment from the federal budget to provide more resources for the RCMP and for border guards.

"Quebecers have four years of NDP MPs to ask themselves what that got them," Harper said Thursday at the announcement in Montreal, where the Conservatives are also hoping to secure a seat.

"And I think the answer to that is pretty obvious."

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