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Politics NDP takes aim at Trudeau's riding as party rides momentum in Quebec

Justin Trudeau won his seat in Papineau by 4,000 votes in 2011.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

The NDP is putting up a fight to oust Justin Trudeau in his riding of Papineau, buoyed by recent polls showing the party on a strong footing to keep a majority of its seats in Quebec and even make gains elsewhere in the province.

The party has called on self-styled "lefty commentator" Anne Lagacé Dowson to go up against Mr. Trudeau, hoping she can use her media profile to take down the Liberal Leader on his home turf in Montreal.

Mr. Trudeau won his seat by 4,000 votes in 2011, but the New Democrats are hoping that a weakened Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party's struggles in appealing to francophone voters in Quebec can lead to a breakthrough. "If you look at that riding, I think it's winnable," said Ms. Lagacé Dowson, who announced her candidacy on Sunday.

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Meanwhile, the Liberals selected Mélanie Joly in a hotly contested nomination battle to represent the party in the Montreal riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville on Sunday night. While she had the official support of Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Joly jumped in late in the Liberal nomination race and had to fight hard to catch up to her rivals. She won on the third ballot, after having finished in second place in the last mayoral race in Montreal.

Ms. Joly will now run against Maria Mourani, who was elected in the riding in 2011 as a Bloc Québécois candidate but has since defected to the NDP.

While the NDP and the Liberals are fighting it out on Montreal Island, the Conservative campaign is travelling further east in Quebec for a three-day swing.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his team are campaigning in half-a-dozen ridings in Quebec, hoping to make gains at the expense of the NDP in Quebec City and in ridings such as St-Hyacinthe-Bagot and Drummond that feature a mix of urban and rural areas. While the Conservatives are not faring well overall in polls in Quebec, they are showing regional strength in parts of the province where Mr. Harper has focused most of his campaigning.

On Sunday afternoon, he gave a speech in St-Hyacinthe in support of his candidate, Réjean Léveillé, who was a well-known television journalist in the province.

"This election is a choice about which party, which team, has the leadership, the proven experience, to keep Canadians safe and our economy strong, whether we want to go down the route of big spending, permanent deficits and tax hikes, or whether we want to stay on track," Mr. Harper said in a speech.

As the Conservatives push a message of stability and security in Quebec, the NDP and the Liberal Party are fighting over the votes of Quebeckers who want a new government in Ottawa.

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In an interview, Ms. Lagacé Dowson said the Liberals have failed to make a case for a new shot at government. She ran for the NDP in Westmount-Ville-Marie in the 2008 election, and after her loss she returned to journalism, appearing on Radio-Canada and working as a host on English-language radio station CJAD. She said the NDP has momentum in Quebec, according to recent polls, and has a real shot at winning the Oct. 19 election.

"The Liberals have shown themselves to not be substantially different enough from the Conservatives to deserve a free pass. They voted in favour of C-51 [the government's anti-terrorism legislation], they voted against the NDP's proposal on proportional representation," Ms. Lagacé Dowson said.

Ms. Lagacé Dowson, who lives in the nearby riding of Outremont, said the residents of Papineau have been neglected by Mr. Trudeau and deserve a stronger voice in the House, even if her victory would create a major headache for the Liberal Party.

"In a democracy, you can run against anyone," she said.

The Liberals replied that they also have a strong candidate running against NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in Outremont, pointing out that lawyer Rachel Bendayan has been at work for more than a year. (Mr. Mulcair won his seat in 2011 by more than 12,000 votes.)

"Mr.Trudeau has been representing and serving his Papineau constituents with great dedication since 2008. He looks forward to keep presenting his plan to create growth for the middle class throughout the campaign," said Liberal spokeswoman Geneviève Hinse.

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