RICHMOND, B.C. - Stephen Harper told voters in a rally outside Vancouver Tuesday night that voters in British Columbia may determine who wins power on Oct. 19, hoping to dissuade strategic voting on election day.
Strategic voting is a possibility since the government removed laws that prohibited the broadcasting of election results until polls closed on the West Coast.
Western voters will learn about how Canadians in Ontario and Quebec have cast their ballots before they finish voting on election day.
"The voice of British Columbians will matter more in the outcome of this election than it ever has before. Gone are the days when Canadian elections are decided in the East before Westerners even vote," the Conservative leader said at the rally.
"British Columbia may well now choose who will form the national government in Canada. That's a big step forward."
The Tories and NDP are in several tight races in the province and fighting for six newly created seats. Harper's comments alluded to the possibility that B.C. voters could head to the polls on election day hoping to help one of the two opposition parties overthrow the Conservatives if the votes out East suggest a tight race.
Had the new riding boundaries existed in 2011, there are 10 seats that were decided by less than 4,000 votes, with one seat — Cowichan_Malahat_Langford — being separated by 253 votes, based on an Elections Canada analysis that transposed 2011 votes onto the 2015 ridings.
Harper made his first pitch to British Columbia voters Tuesday at a rally in a crowded hotel room in Richmond. The visit was his first foray to the West in this campaign as Harper flies around the country to shore up the party's base ahead of the October vote.
Harper took aim at the record of the New Democrats in B.C., which held power in Canada's westernmost province twice in the last 40 years. He argued that the 1990s were a "decade of darkness" for the province and suggested the federal NDP with Tom Mulcair as prime minister would have the same effect on B.C.
"British Columbia, industrious, innovative, talented, resource-rich British Columbia became a have-not province in Confederation in a few years. Friends, that is the NDP's record in B.C. and we're going to make sure it never happens to this great country," he said to applause.
Harper also talked about his party's anti-drug strategy, which is part of a tough-on-crime agenda he touted earlier in the day at an event outside Toronto. He also talked about the economy and trade, pointing to trade deals the Conservatives have tried to sign with Asian countries.
Harper is expected to talk more about the economy at an event near Vancouver Wednesday morning before flying out to Edmonton for a rally.
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