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federal election

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair launches his campaign at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., after Prime Minister Stephen Harper called an election on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015.PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair launched his campaign by arguing he offers the only credible alternative to Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada in this election.

In his opening speech, Mr. Mulcair appealed to voters who want a change of government, while making no reference to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada.

"In this election campaign, Canadians have a clear choice: Four more years of Mr. Harper and the Conservatives, or my plan for change," Mr. Mulcair said.

Unlike Mr. Harper, the NDP Leader did not take any questions from the media. He gave his speech at the Canadian Museum of History, right across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill, where his predecessor Jack Layton announced his goal of forming the next government in 2008.

Seven years later, the New Democrats are hoping that this election will finally lead them to power. Standing either first or second in most public opinion polls, Mr. Mulcair is trying to position the coming vote as a battle between his left-leaning party and the governing Conservatives.

"Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any prime minister since 1960. The economy has shrunk in each of the last five months and many are claiming that Canada is already in another recession," Mr. Mulcair said, staring at the television cameras. "Clearly, Mr. Harper, your plan isn't working."

The party's "number 1 priority" will be to "kick-start the economy and get Canadians back to work," he said.

"Wages are falling, incomes are stagnant and household debt is skyrocketing ... middle class families are working harder than ever but can't get ahead," Mr. Mulcair said.

He fought back against Conservative attacks that an NDP government would lead Canada into a state of "permanent deficits."

"Our plan is built on enduring Canadian values: hard work, living within your means, accountability and an unwavering commitment to focus the government's priorities on helping you get ahead," Mr. Mulcair said.

He said the NDP would put sustainable development at the heart of the government's agenda, in addition to putting in place a national daycare program and helping middle-class Canadians.

The NDP Leader argued that his 35 years of public service, either as a government employee or a Liberal MNA and minister in Quebec, have prepared him for the task of putting the Canadian economy on a stronger footing. While he did not make any reference to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Mulcair obviously feels he has more experience in government and politics than his Liberal rival.

"I have learned to be a prudent manager, working in the public interest, and I have acquired the necessary experience to defeat and replace Stephen Harper," Mr. Mulcair said. "Canadians are ready for change, and we're ready too."

On everything from protecting and restoring the environment and providing fair treatment to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples to creating jobs and doing away with political corruption, the NDP is the better choice, Mr. Mulcair said.

"In each of the last three elections, Conservatives have been convicted of wrongdoing. Some of been sent to jail. One-third of the Senate is under police investigation. I believe this must change once and for all."

The Conservatives have also gutted Canada's environmental protections and embarrassed the country on the climate-change file, he added.

"My priority is to strengthen and enforce environment rules here at home and have Canada do its part in tackling climate change on the world stage."

After the speech, the NDP Leader headed off to the funeral of former Progressive Conservative minister Flora MacDonald, and will spend the week preparing for the first leaders' debate on Thursday.

With files from The Canadian Press