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Manitoba party leaders exchange blows over northern issues Add to ...

Manitoba NDP Leader Greg Selinger announced a flurry of promises geared toward the province's north as he prepared to tour the region this week in the lead up to the Oct. 4 election.

Mr. Selinger accused the Progressive Conservatives of neglecting northern Manitoba as he promised his party would keep Manitoba Hydro publicly-owned, and would expand it with generating stations at Wuskwatim, Keeyask and Conawapa.

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He also pledged nearly $65 million for roads and highways in the north, some of which he says will help the crown-owned utility.

Mr. Selinger pledged major work on Highway 10, as well as money for redeveloping The Pas' riverfront, expansion for the Northern Consultation Clinic in Thompson, and cash to expand the emergency room at Flin Flon General Hospital.

Other party leaders also made health-care announcements this weekend, with Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen promising $1.5 million for a CT scanner for Swan River.

Jon Gerrard of the Liberals promised to invest $4.6 million to fight diabetes in Manitoba.

“Northern Manitoba is a source of immense opportunities — for local residents and for all Manitoba,” Mr. Selinger said in a news release on Saturday shortly before boarding a plane to tour northern communities.

Mr. Selinger said Mr. McFadyen's plans to cancel hydro expansion would hurt the northern region the most.

Mr. McFadyen has repeatedly denied accusations by Mr. Selinger that the Tories would privatize Manitoba Hydro.

The NDP is seeking a fourth mandate, but its first under Mr. Selinger, who took over the party when Gary Doer resigned in 2009 to become Canada's ambassador to the United States.

Analysts, as well as opinion polls, suggest the election will be the closest contest in more than a decade.

Mr. McFadyen, who was campaigning with PC candidate Dave Powell in Swan River on Saturday, said a new CT scanner for the area would mean patients won't have to travel to Dauphin for the service.

“A CT scanner is a powerful diagnostic tool and bringing this tool closer to the families of Swan River and the surrounding region will make a positive difference,” Mr. McFadyen said in a news release.

Mr. Selinger, in his announcements about expanding health services in Flin Flon and Thompson, took swipes at the Tories for cutting health care in the region the last time they held power.

The NDP leader pledged $2 million for renovations at the Thompson clinic, which he said will spare residents close to 1,000 trips to Winnipeg every year. A new $10-million emergency room in Flin Flon, he promised, would meet the growing needs of families in the community.

Gerard, meanwhile, accused the NDP of allowing diabetes to become an epidemic in the province under Mr. Selinger's watch.

The Liberals say that despite the ballooning rates for diabetes in Manitoba, plans to deal with the diseases weren't mentioned in the throne speeches in 2009 or 2010, nor in the budget speeches of 2010 or 2011.

He said Liberals would make sure Manitobans get monthly updates on the number of people newly diagnosed with the disease.

“Liberals will make the diabetes epidemic a major public health priority in Manitoba,” Mr. Gerard said in a news release.

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