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Conservative Leader addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Niagara Falls on April 28, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Conservative Leader addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Niagara Falls on April 28, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Harper predicts pain <br/>at gas pumps should Layton grab share of power Add to ...

Stephen Harper is warning an NDP-led coalition government would raid Canadians' pocketbooks and savage the economy as the Conservative Leader tries to curb surging support for Jack Layton that imperils his long-sought Tory majority.

He's predicting, for instance, that the NDP's cap-and-trade system to restrict greenhouse gas emissions would boost gas prices in Canada by 10 cents a litre.

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And he's cautioning that Mr. Layton could damage cross-border commerce with Canada's biggest trading partner.

"The NDP has been Canada's most consistent, most vociferous and most aggressive opponent of a strong trading relationship with the United States," Mr. Harper warned during a campaign stop in Niagara Falls Thursday morning.

"The NDP approach to issues like trade has not changed since the Cold War. It is an ideological throwback."

The Tories are struggling to confront the rise in the polls for Mr. Layton and Mr. Harper only began sharpening his attack on the New Democrats Wednesday evening.

Speaking in Niagara Falls Thursday morning, Mr. Harper said he hopes Canadians think carefully about how Layton's policies would affect their tax burden and for the economy.

In Quebec, for instance, where the NDP is first in the polls, Mr. Harper said he can't believe the provinces would embrace Mr. Layton if they read his platform.

He says he thinks the province would from tax and levy hikes promised in the NDP platform, from increase in premiums for the Canada Pension Plan to hikes in Employment Insurance levies to increased taxes on businesses.

"Quebeckers ... are one of the most overtaxed people in the world," he said. "They are not, in my view, knowingly going to vote for a party or a coalition that will bring enormous tax increases on them at the federal level."

Mr. Harper is jetting to Quebec later Thursday to try to arrest an apparent plunge in Conservative support there.

The latest polling from Nanos Research shows the Tories with 36.6 per cent of national support followed by the NDP at 30.4 per cent and the Liberals far down at 21.4 per cent.

In Quebec, Nanos suggests the NDP has soared to 42.5 per cent of voter support with the Bloc Quebecois lagging at 25.1 per cent and the Tories at 13.5 per cent.

The Conservatives are directing media to call University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz Thursday. Mr. Mintz says his calculations show the NDP's proposal for a cap-and-trade system to restrict greenhouse gas emissions would add 10 cents a litre to gas prices in the early days and 18 cents a litre by 2014.

"The alternative the opposition offers, symbolized most dramatically by the NDP, are enormous increases in government expenses, the raising of taxes, the raising of prices, which we know will have a devastating effect on consumers' pocket[books]and ultimately on our economy," Mr. Harper warned.

He said his fundamental pitch to Canadians hasn't changed with the NDP surge. Mr. Harper has since Day 1 of the campaign warned that unless he gets a majority, the opposition parties would unite to replace him with their own coalition.

Now, Mr. Harper says, it's Mr. Layton that he believes would lead the charge. He predicts the coalition would lead to "higher taxes, higher spending and protectionism" in Canada.

"Canadians need to understand how dramatically different the choices really are when you are looking at two Parliaments: one with a Conservative majority, the other a minority Parliament with a ramshackle coalition led by the NDP that will not last but will do a lot of destruction."

Follow on Twitter: @stevenchase

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